In addition to our main Game of the Year Awards 2022 (opens in new tab), each member of the PC Gamer team is shining a spotlight on a game they loved this year. We'll post new personal picks, alongside our main awards, throughout the rest of the month.
I've been enveloped by a cosy blanket of nostalgia playing Two Point Campus (opens in new tab) this year. Not only has it hit so many of the marks necessary for a great management game, and as a sequel to the superb Two Point Hospital has really lived up to the name, but to me it's more than just a great game.
To me it feels like home.
It's 1998. I'm six years old and sitting on the futon beside my two-decades-older sister in her sparsely decorated flat. Wires strewn across the floor, we've shifted the miniscule CRT TV and the futon together in the middle of the room to make for easier viewing.
The PS1 disk-read sound whirrs on and soon, upon the periodically flickering screen, appears the Bullfrog logo, etched on blueprint paper. Theme Hospital is our happy place.
Recently, I moved across the country for work, which has meant I haven't had much chance to see my sister all year. So, I needed to find something to fill that void. In 2022, Two Point Campus became my missing-my-sis comfort game. Partly that's because her other favourite franchise, The Sims, really doesn't have the same sentimental air to it any more, and partly because it nails her utterly slapstick and sarcastic sense of humour.
Between reminders that the staff have to care about the students, and that the "administrator" (that's you) should stay hydrated—as well as tongue-in-cheek commentary about student life that makes my past uni-bound self feel personally attacked—the tannoy announcements are one of the most delightful things about Two Point Campus. The humour they bring to the experience of designing a whimsical, pun-infested campus, brimming with out of this world teaching methods, is really something else.
And while the awkward yet strangely dear radio announcers provide another tick in the absurdity box, there's something truly engrossing about getting to know your staff through their wacky references. "Found it in the sofa," "A dirty snake," "Writes to the mayor." These may seem like inconsequential gumpth to your average hundred-percenter, but for someone like me who values narrative so highly, these tiny details are what give my brain the little dopamine hits I crave.
I'm out here considering what the staffs' home life is like, getting into their heads, and backing myself into a corner with the self-inflicted goal of making sure every member of staff is paid a fair wage.
There are countless little absurdities that bring the game to life, too. The idea that a teacher can be trained in the ways of aerodynamics to help them get to their next class faster is a hilarious concept in itself, or the fact that students on the Funny Business course will find wildly different things inside their wardrobes than those studying Archaeology. This game has disco-dancing knights of olde for crying out loud. What more do you want?
And all that humour is just an ornament to the ever challenging management sim itself. There's a consistent flow of changing goals as you unlock new campuses across Two Point County in campaign mode, though you don't feel overworked. contrary to the Theme Hospital . These keep you on a constant upward trajectory toward becoming the best campus administrator the world has ever seen, and really make it feel like you're achieving something greater than yourself. Even if, technically, you're playing with digital dolls.
Much like Two Point Hospital that came before it, Two Point Campus has really managed to capture the essence of the original 1997 Theme Hospital, only with some spiffing upgrades—the ability to design outer shells of each building is a game changer, for instance.
Even if the Two Point devs had neglected to add in these little quality-of-life features, I'd still be on my knees praising the game. It's honestly reinvigorated my love for management games and taken me back, time after time, to that comforting memory in my sister's flat.
I know technically it's not a cosy game, but for me it is. That's why it's my game of the year personal pick. I really needed a cosy game.