Thu. Jul 7th, 2022

Finally, I’m benefitting from the world’s seemingly-endless appetite for nostalgia for the good ol ‘days. 25 years after Theme Hospital was released, and four years after Two Point Hospitalits remake spiritual successor made its debut, we’re getting a true sequel.

Two Point Campus takes players back to the world of Two Point County, this time tasked with building a chain of new universities in plots adjacent to the previously-dysfunctional hospitals you’ve finished renovating.

I recently played through an early build of the first two levels of the game. Freshleigh Meadows is a cut-down tutorial stage, while the Rome-inspired Piazza Lanatra is the second area players can expect to access. With the release date pushed back to August 9th, I get the sense that the title isn’t yet as polished as the developers might have hoped. This is, at least in part, attributed to the fact that much of it was created remotely while staffers were locked down at home.

I’d only recently (re) completed Two Point Hospital and found that I could breeze through these early levels on instinct alone. At first blush, you might feel that Campus is a little too similar to its predecessor for it to be deemed a standalone sequel. Much has been pulled over wholesale from the previous title, albeit with some graphical polishing. The team clearly felt that if it wasn’t broken, there was little point in trying to fix it, at least as far as I’ve played so far.

The most notable difference is that Two Point wanted to address the most common complaint made by players of Hospital – that they didn’t enjoy the layout puzzles. In both Theme Hospital and Two Point Hospital, you’re given intentionally problematic floor plans for you to build your facility on. That’s part of the core mechanic, forcing you to optimize your layouts for both a speedy patient journey and to make the best use of the space allowed. That weird dogleg building too small for an X-Ray room? It’s your mission to try and fill it with somethingthat’s it the point.

With Two Point Campus, it’s not anymore, since you can now pay money to amend the boundaries of your building and even move the entrances. You can claim, or return, land back to your garden space depending on your need on each level. The point of having weird building layouts that wasted acres of potentially-useful space was part of the game’s playful sadism. I’d complain more about those darn kids needing things to be easier, but I’m coming around to it.

Two Point / Sega

And you’re no longer solving for efficiency anymore, but also aesthetics. The outdoor spaces can be filled with trees, pathways, flora and concession stands, amongst other things. Your obligation is not just to educate people, but also to ensure that your students are learning in a pleasant environment.

Financial management is less of a key factor Campus, because success is now tied to how well your students do. That means watching underperforming students who’ll need to send to private tuition, or expelling ones who aren’t up to scratch. You’ll also have to set up events for people to meet each other, both socially and romantically. You can buy romantic trinkets for the campus, like love seats, to encourage meet-cutes on your watch. I don’t know if I’m a fan; it feels like the wrong sort of subject for a light-hearted business simulation game to be tackling.

Universities are also a lot less of a gold mine for zany jokes compared to a cartoonish hospital. Sure, there are still menu gags and amusing radio commentary, but there are just less things to poke fun at in a campus setting. The weirdest thing I’ve seen so far is trainee chefs cooking a burger the size of an SUV in a slightly bigger skillet. It’s a far cry from unscrewing a lightbulb sticking out of someone’s neck when they’re suffering from “lightheadedness.”

Campus‘The sense of scale has shifted fairly significantly, too, and Hospital players may find the bigger rooms are more of a challenge. While you could build a serviceable clinic out of just 3×3-sized rooms, the default area in Campus is closer to 5×5. There’s a lot more stuff to cram into each room, too, with a more maximalist sense of design compared to the last game. I suspect it’s because of those Hospital players min-maxing their hospital suites with impractical objects.

'Two Point Campus' Screenshot

Two Point / Sega

Mercifully, you can now build bathrooms on a 2×1 plot, so any spare room in lobbies all over your campus can now be put to use.

Even as a loud-and-proud fan, I’m mature enough to admit that the titles wear out their welcome after a while. Hospital, while brilliant, essentially asked you to play the same set of gameplay loops across its 15 levels. Yes, the scale got bigger, as did the obstacles, but by the time I reached the final level, the toughest challenge was maintaining my interest.

It’s something that Two Point does seem to be aware of, carefully ensuring that you can’t blow through its new game with the same speedy ruthlessness. Part of this is down to the three “year” cycle the game employs for your entrants to get their degree. The other is a greater focus on actively managing your campus beyond squeezing every penny from its walls.

Early on in Piazza Lantara, I ran out of cash – which often meant restarting a level in Hospital. But here, you can simply wait, burning off a year of some kids’ education in order to recoup the losses without ever needing to take out a loan. (Two Point could never, ever, run away from the satirical point that nothing is more important than guarding your bottom line in whatever privatized industry you’re running.)

If there’s one thing I wish, deep down, the developers had devoted more time to, it’s the game’s frustrating intangibles. There are many instances when you need to improve your hygiene rating, for instance, and have to plaster every wall with hand sanitizer stations and trash cans. But because one too many staff members are “unhygienic”, you’ll never get there unless you start sacking folks.

'Two Point Campus' Screenshot

Two Point / Sega

It’s one of the game’s problems that are often most reliably solved by visiting a Reddit thread, since the solutions are often buried beyond a casual player’s ability to find them. I also wish the UI was less fussy when it came to duplicating rooms with duplicated items on the walls. Having to manually delete internal windows, for instance, seems to be harder this time around than it was in Hospital. (And another: Why can’t I put a sanitizer dispenser over a trash can, since they don’t occupy the same space?)

But none of those issues, annoying as they are, won’t stop me from eagerly snagging Campus on the day it’s launched. I sank eight hours into just those early levels, while suffering from COVID-19, because it’s as addictive as its predecessor. I feel like there’ll be the usual period of my life when it swallows every waking minute that I’m not doing anything else. While Two Point Campus is very much the same game as its predecessor, it’s still very welcome.

Two Point Campus will debut on PC, Mac, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X / S, Xbox Game Pass and Nintendo Switch on August 9th, 2022.

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