I write these thoughts with Two Point Campus still running in the background, playing itself. You see, I’m an absolute sucker for getting 3 stars on each map, and a lot of the time that requires a whole lot of waiting. In the current scenario, I need to hold a particular event – a Celebrity Cook-Off – and that requires my gastronomy course to be of a certain ‘level’. To reach that I need course points that are only awarded at the end of the academic year, something that will take 10-15 minutes to reach at full game speed.
As I wait, a bunch of stuff happens in the background. Students request specific items in certain rooms so they can achieve their personal goals. Simon Claridge wants a ramen kiosk (he has modest ambitions). Another student wants a particular type of bed for him and his girlfriend to enjoy (I’m not making that up).
At this point in the scenario, there is no real benefit to providing any of that. I’ve already checked off the objective around satisfying a certain number of personal goals and there doesn’t seem to be any penalty for just ignoring them beyond this point. Nor does there seem any penalty for ignoring the (literally) endless requests for events, inspections, open days, club items, any of it. My bank balance ticks slowly up and nothing seems to break. I trust that things would fall over eventually, but at time of writing I’ve been in this state for about 45 minutes and all is fine. Maybe I’m a natural.
Oh hurrah – it’s the end of the academic year. Course upgraded, Cook-Off scheduled. November at the earliest though, so the wait goes on.
There’s a lot that players could like about Two Point Campus, which makes me sad for feeling absolutely nothing about any of it. The game has clearly retained all the charm of Two Point Hospital – the seemingly endless background commentary, the witty one-liners and flavour text, and the unique and expressive animations characters perform in each room. Room building feels great, the tutorial is well paced and new ideas introduced at sensible intervals, and the visuals are clean and vibrant. It’s a beautiful simulation that just works.
I’ve won the Cook-Off at my first try, 3-stars unlocked and the next campus is now available to me. That’s nice.
Two Point Campus is exactly what I hoped it wouldn’t be; a complete re-skin of Two Point Hospital that requires so little of the player other than time and patience (I’m short on both). Yes technically there are plenty of ‘new’ features and things to do – of course there are, you aren’t running a hospital after all. But make no doubt about it, theme and minor gameplay variation aside, this is the exact same game with the same faults.
I almost thought I was playing Two Point Hospital at points. Whilst you’re building different rooms, you’re dropping them down on an identical map with an identical UI. You’re still building staff rooms, toilets, benches, hiring janitors and assistants. Teachers replace doctors, students replace patients, but it’s all the same.
The dreaded ‘Campus level’ (formerly ‘Hospital level’) returns and has game progress tied to it. If you want to increase it, you can just build rooms and hire staff. Whilst I’m mid-way through the academic year, with no way for new students to enroll at the moment, I’m throwing down lecture theatres and private tuition spaces like a dean on crack. The lecturers I hire to man them must be beyond bored, sitting in their office for 6 months waiting for something to do. My campus is now officially two levels better.
On one scenario I need to increase the hygiene rating of my hospital (sorry ‘campus’). Solution; spam out some sinks and sanitiser dispensers until that nudges up a couple of percentage points. Some new janitors would help too – why not, no matter how much I spend I always seem to be in profit. Now the game is demanding I level up a dormitory – so posters and decorations get spammed out next. I stop at the earliest possible moment.
There is no challenge whatsoever. Yes there are advantages to smart design – putting dorms, libraries and toilets close to where the students are studying. But as I reach an hour of letting the game play itself, there clearly isn’t any need.
It makes me wonder who this game is intended for. Not for strategy fans or those who like the challenge side of management sims, the game really isn’t demanding enough for that. But I’d also doubt it’s for the sandbox lovers or the creatives or the storytellers. Students lack any real sense of unique personality and the game forces you to take more and more on to the point you can no longer really keep track of any individual. Yes it’s cute seeing the students play Harry Potter in the Spells Room the first time, but I doubt this is holding anyone’s attention much beyond that. If you want to move on, you need to build and build and build.
And that’s the answer to every level. Just keep building, recruiting, upgrading. New courses get added into your repertoire, but the differences are cosmetic rather than functional. Build the rooms, hire the right lecturer, see students with a different set of skins trickle in.
I’ve had this experience all before with Two Point Hospital, but there I was taken in by the charm – spending 15 hours with the game before I realised how shallow and devoid of mechanical challenge it was. Two Point Campus makes that abundantly clear from the early levels. It’s a time drain, with so many uninteresting bars to fill that I wouldn’t be surprised if in an alternative reality it was released as a mobile game with pay-to-win features.
I feel like an utter bitch for writing this as I wanted to love this game. But beyond the jokes, the satisfying building tools and the light-hearted and happy tone, this game feels just like a 4-year art history course. A serious waste of time.