Two Point Campus gameplay: a hint of Stardew Valley

Sega's Two Point Campus cribs from the likes of Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing, creating a management game that invests you in what you create

On my first contact with Two Point Campus’ gameplay, it seems like a university reskin of Two Point Hospital. But as I play more – three hours’ worth, to be precise – I find myself more engaged than in many other management games, and begin to understand its cleverness: Two Point Campus gives you control over the scale of the operations you manage. It isn’t just about dealing with problems; it’s about creating problems that you’ll want to deal with.

The game’s open approach to choice means that, as you play, you aren’t forced to create new courses, double your student intake, or endlessly expand your campus until you’re struggling to keep track of all your departments. You can have one building with a few dozen students studying only Archaeology, and still have a rewarding time by focusing on giving them the best learning experience possible.

Alternatively, you can go big. You can try to teach every course open to you and build a massive campus with half a dozen dormitories, three different student bars – all run by the students’ union – and more janitors, assistants, and staff members than you can count.

Two Point Campus doesn’t feel like you’re managing a list of problems; it feels like an evolution of games like Animal Crossing or Stardew Valley, with deeper systems to explore as you play. You are creating your own little pocket university that you can tailor to your liking, similarly to how such games let you customise your own farm or island.

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For example, take the layout of your campus, which you can fiddle with on several layers of varying importance. Naturally you have the expected suite of cosmetic changes, like wallpaper and floor colours, but on a more fundamental level your students’ and staff wellbeing will suffer unless you provide them places to relax. Students need dormitories to sleep in, benches to sit and chill with their friends, and study rooms to work in. Teachers need staff rooms to take a break from the university’s hustle and bustle. Between these cosmetic and systemic layers exists the task of creating a warm and friendly atmosphere through posters, plants, and green spaces, so your students aren’t studying in a lifeless building made up of plain corridors.

Two Point Hospital sometimes felt a bit like a conveyor belt: patients come in with a light bulb for a head, navigate bureaucracy to get their treatment, and walk out again once cured. But Two Point Campus asks you to invest in the students you’re managing, and by extension, you’re able to care a lot more about the university you’re running. It’ll matter to you for reasons beyond the merely functional.

You’ll want to build new facilities not to check off a box, but to boost your students’ enjoyment of their time on campus. Or you’ll want to decorate your corridors so that your students and staff don’t feel like they’re in a prison, and are able to connect with the environment in which they are learning, whether it be posters for bands or items to lend a personal touch to their social spaces.

Two Point Campus gameplay preview: a student dormitory with the ceiling cut away. Students sit and drink at a table laden with red cups, a vending machine on one side, table football on the other, and a TV and sofas below. On the other side of the wall is a bedroom.

That’s not to say that Two Point Campus has taken the ‘management’ out of the management sim genre. You can still work your way through a list of tasks, upgrade your university’s rating, examine and cater to students’ needs on an individual level (such as adding an item to your university that they want), and try to solve problems as granular as littering while also running lessons and holding parties for students. I don’t mean to turn off genre fans by suggesting that anything is oversimplified, only that you don’t have to be bogged down by notifications and checklists if you don’t want to be. As a result, it feels like one of the most freeing and enjoyable experiences I have had with a game of this genre.

Being able to keep your campus as small as you like has already got me thinking about what type of university I would want to create: the best culinary school in Two Point County, with a focus on cooking courses? Or perhaps turn out top-tier athletes in a bid to master the sports scene? Maybe I’ll push technology ahead with a focus on science?

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How successfully these fantasies can be delivered, and whether the full game lives up to its early promise, are questions for a full review. But Two Point Studios’ trademark humour and charm, combined with Campus’s newfound flexibility, has made for a delightful time at preview stage and left me excited to check out the full game.

The Two Point Campus release date is August 9, 2022. The co-founders of Two Point Studios will be speaking about their decades-long careers in game development at W.A.S.D, a brand-new gaming expo, in London this weekend – you can catch their panel on the event livestream or grab tickets to the show here:

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