Two Point Campus is even better than its predecessor – hands-on preview
Theme Hopsital is one of my favorite games of all time. It’s just one of those games to me where even a couple of bars of its iconic music sends a wave of nostalgia through me – and so I was naturally thrilled when, after decades, the game got a spiritual successor: Two Point Hospital.
Back in 2018, pre-release, I was thrilled. I called Two Point Hospital “a truly worthy successor to an all-time great” – and I meant it. But, at the same time, there was something that took me by surprise in the final release; I didn’t love it quite as much as Theme Hospital. I found myself drifting back to the original, which is playable in high resolutions on modern hardware via a fan remake called CorsixTH. I went into Two Point Campus cautiously optimistic, then. And I’m walking away buoyed by a simple fact: this feels more like a successor to Theme Hospital.
Let me explain. While I loved Two Point Hospital, in many ways it felt like the most simple and safe spiritual successor one could design. It took Theme Hospital and recreated it with modern technology and conveniences, but in some sense it felt like an echo of something great that came before. Two Point Campus is the best of both worlds; it slavishly pays respect to its roots, but also owns its new premise whole-heartedly. The result is a game that feels like it has more of the magic that made Theme Hospital great.
If you’re unfamiliar, that new setting is – as the name suggests – a university campus. The core concept is the same, though: you’re the god-like hands in the sky, the head of the institution, doing everything from balancing the budget to hiring staff and designing the architectural layout of your hallowed halls of learning.
The setting opens up a number of cool opportunities. In a lengthy hands-on I play four levels, for instance – and rather than being distinguished by different illnesses, they’re instead markedly different schools. Freshleigh Meadows, the tutorial level, is a traditional school with a scientific focus. But then level two is a food college training future chefs. Level three teaches noble Knights (complete with jousting contests), and the fourth level is basically Hogwarts – but without all the nasty real-world baggage. One of the later options not in this build is clown school, something lots of extremely online gamers know all about. It’s neat.
Like in the Hospital games, there is some level of cross-over. You can teach Science at Knight School for instance, but each campus has its own core course and unique feel, at least in these early stages of the game. There’s also broad student needs that don’t change from one campus to another; you’ll want to build dormitories for your live-in faculty (which also generates extra revenue), plus things like a Student Union to give them space to party and unwind.
All of this is crucial, too, because student needs feel like they matter more in Two Point Campus. In the Hospital games, your job is basically to keep folks comfortable enough that they hang around long enough to be cured. But in Campus, your charges have actual grades – and if they’re happier and more comfortable, they’ll be more likely to perform better in their end-of-year exams. Better grades means more money and more prestige, so you definitely feel more focused on the happiness and well-being of every character under your care.
There’s more nuance to this happiness, too. Basic needs like being hydrated and fed, staying at a comfortable temperature, or needing to go to the toilet are all still there, but you also have to place items and rooms to provide entertainment, foster friendships, or enhance academic performance. All of these things impact on student performance, and therefore yours, down the line.
Honestly, in truth, you’re probably not doing much more, and much different, to other games of this type. Something about this setting just works, though. It makes the busywork feel less like busywork, and gives you a more tangible statistic to focus on in the form of student grades and performance. You don’t end up in a situation where an off-camera death, missed because you’re busy elsewhere, has hugely negative effects. Instead, you’re focused on a bigger picture – and it just feels great.
As you can probably tell, I’m really loving it. These are difficult games to really preview, as the first few levels are only introducing the concepts – the real plate-spinning action comes later on, as things learned from every level clash and make your life really difficult. But so far, Two Point Campus feels like not just a worthy successor to its direct predecessor – but also to the old game that inspired this new franchise. That’s no mean feat.
Two Point Campus is coming to PC, Mac, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S on August 9. A three month delay was announced earlier this year. It will also be a day one release on Xbox Games Pass.