Two Point Studios originally burst onto the scene in 2018 with Two Point Hospital, which allowed players to manage an eccentric, often faulty healthcare system in a world where patients routinely needed treatment for “animal magnetism” and “light-headedness.” (That is, a lightbulb attached to their heads.) Two Point Campus aims to be the ideal successor to that legacy with an equally daffy tone. You are the administrator of one of the strangest colleges in the country, overseeing a student body full of underachievers pursuing questionable degrees in, say, knighting or archaeology. Some simulation games are full of serious, logistical choices about finance, resources, and logistics, but in Two Point Campus, you’ll be boosting student morale by placing a plastic whale fountain in the front yard of your esteemed institution. This is a very silly game with a cockeyed perspective on higher education, but as always, Two Point attempts to weave in just enough strategic decision-making to give this farce some teeth.
The best analogue to the Two Point catalog is probably the eternal computer lab classic, Rollercoaster Tycoon. Both games prioritize the spectacle of creation rather than any excruciating spreadsheet navigation, so your campaign will begin with a small, empty building and a tableau of construction tools. Plop down a classroom, fill it with the requisite educational materials, and voila, a steady stream of undergraduates will start pouring through the corridors. Add a dormitory, and they now have a place to sleep. Throw in a shower room, and they won’t be stinking up the lectures. All of this is mandated in a generously unrealistic tone. You know how in SimCity you can get by for years while leaving huge sections of your metropolis without power? Yes, in Two Point Campus, you’ll be able to survive with, say, a faculty staff of exactly one teacher throughout your initial semesters. This is not a realistic simulation, nor does it try to be.
All of this action is coated with Two Point’s trademark goofiness. Your students are a blend of goths, misfits, preps, and Fonzi cosplayers. One of them requested me to place a “clown trunk” — yes, a crate full of clowning supplies — next to their bed, for reasons best left uninvestigated. Another one, who exclusively dressed like Abraham Lincoln, demanded a fancy hat stand. I opted for hard-nosed STEM courses like science and math in my curriculum, but players can easily spin out towards more esoteric coursework, like wizardry and spy school. I was never hurting for cash during my time with the game, perhaps because I was nickel-and-diming my enrollment with a tight network of hotdog stands and coffee shops. Honestly, a satirical edge flows through every one of Two Point Campus’s systems. Did you graduate feeling ripped off with a worthless degree? The designers understand your pain.
There are some loose goals that guide you through the early stages of Two Point Campus. You’re encouraged to increase the prestige of your education programs by filling the classrooms with extra resources. The more kids graduate with high marks, the quicker you’ll gain access to better universities and a broader set of courses and cosmetics, and eventually you’ll likely be running a gigantic mega-school that puts my dinky university to shame. But the studio still gives the player a lot of leeway as they pursue those goals. This is a video game where you can obsess over the precise longitudinal distribution of your trash cans if you’d like, because the joy here is to create a scholastic engine that is simply fun to look at as it runs. You can minmax all you’d like, but I enjoyed Two Point Campus the most when I was zooming in deep into my lecture halls, watching my enrollment hard at work on their studies.
Really, the only question is how long Two Point Campus can sustain that interest. I only saw a sliver of what the game has to offer, and I don’t know how many surprises and gimmicks Two Point Studios can generate out of its formula. After all, from what I played, running this college felt a lot like running the hospital in their previous game. Hopefully the magic will sustain itself, and I’ll be marshaling new generations of freshmen through arcane syllabuses for years to come.
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Author: Ryan McCaffrey