In my long and unproductive career as an administrator of pretend video game businesses, I’ve overseen a prison, several hospitals, countless theme parks, and even a couple of dungeons. But running a university is completely new territory. Higher education may not be the most exciting theme for a management sim, but Two Point Campus revels in its student years with an array of fantastical courses and a wacky sense of humour that make it stand out from other games of institutional plate-spinning.
Starting out as the supervisor of a small science college, you’re given a seemingly hefty budget and tasked with constructing all the facilities a university needs. This includes laying out lecture theatres, hi-tech science labs, dormitories, staff rooms and toilets; filling these with appropriate (and often expensive) equipment; and hiring teachers, janitors and assistants to run libraries and student amenities.
Like Two Point Hospital, the developer’s previous game, Two Point Campus’s presentation is flawless. Building and outfitting rooms has a delightful tactility to it, while the Aardman-like visual style is brought to life with characterful and intricate animations. Watching your student body go about its business, from heating up food in the student lounge microwave to assembling giant, toy-like robots in the university robotics lab, is captivating. Every piece of equipment you acquire is exciting, simply because you want to see what your students will do with it.
In play, Two Point Campus’s ideas sprawl outwards as it progresses. Its campaign has you managing a chain of colleges, each institution more irreverent than the next. Highlights include a knight school, where your students batter training-dummies in full suits of armour, to a legally nonspecific wizard’s academy that teaches spellcasting and potion brewing. The knight school is subject to frequent invasions from a rival college of chivalry, forcing your janitors to chase them down, armed with water-pistols.
The way universities operate brings a slightly different flavour to Campus’s managerial challenge. You can only run a certain number of courses a year, each of which accepts a limited number of students. This means Two Point Campus is less about managing bottlenecks than Two Point Hospital, where patients could stagger through the door at any time, and more about keeping a watchful eye on your budget, avoiding overspending on staff and facilities while also ensuring those facilities are good enough to keep your students content.
Two Point Campus could improve its representation of the students themselves. They can become friends, join eccentric societies like the fast-walking club, and embark on (distinctly PG) relationships. More broadly, though, your student body is far too docile. Granting your students’ requests for new amenities will make them happier, but you can also safely ignore them without them staging a sit-in in one of the lecture halls, or writing a scathing report in the university newspaper. Some extra friction between the university and its students would improve the experience both mechanically and thematically.
Two Point Campus isn’t entirely toothless: it pokes gentle fun at university life through a range of lightly cynical announcements about paying tuition fees and assignment extensions. Mainly, though, it is content to focus on the journey of learning and discovery that university is intended to provide, which it achieves in inventive, knockabout style. For all the game’s wry declarations, the one truest to its spirit is also the simplest: “Students are reminded to have the time of their lives.”