CAMPUS / Topware / PC

Campus is a strange little game made by a Russian team and published by Germany-based publisher TopWare. It's like a combination of a Japanese college time-management game with the gameplay engine of the first two Fallout games, just minus any kind of combat. It's kinda comparable to some of the handheld and console spinoff games in the Sims series like The Urbz, where you just control one character and try to build them to their goals.

So you're not scavenging in the wastes for scrap ... but you are gonna be scavenging for a restroom. The overarching goal of the game is to take quests from people and complete them while also attending classes in pursuit of an eventual degree. What the game actually turns into, however, is a constant race between food sources, toilets and beds as your bodily need levels increase at ridiculously rapid rates. Food and water aren't too hard, but for some reason restrooms are in super-short supply at this college ... in fact they don't even have any in the dorms! Between walking long distances for a safe place to do a #2 and digging in random trash bins for cheeseburgers and meds, the game really is more like Hobo: The Simulator than anything to do with college.

The outset of the game isn't well planned out and immediately introduces you into the sleep-and-poop rat race that constitutes most of the play time. You first pick from one of five prefab characters, each of which is some kind of college stereotype with differing starting levels in Academics, Athletics and etc. -- you got your Beefbroh, Super Nerd, Cute Chick, Slacker Goof, etc. Immediately upon stepping off the train at college, your character realizes they lost their bag which contained their entry papers. Without these you can't do anything else, and hunting down the bag takes you on a twisty time-consuming quest which involves breaking a hippie out of jail for some reason, then hunting down a pickpocket kid, THEN hunting down some random with mismatched shoes. You step off the train at like 6 PM, though, so while you're running around looking for and talking to all these people, it's likely to wind up being 2 or 3 AM before you get your bag. Then it's too late to go get your dorm room, not that I ever figured out how to do that anyway, since the guy who assigns them refuses to recognize you as a student even when you have your papers and the regent and student bureau lady also never seem to do anything helpful. So out of desperation, you'll likely discover that you can sleep in other people's beds, provided that you get friendly with a compliment first and also that they aren't trying to use it (or they'll call the cops on you). So you have to catch them in their room during the day and then they'll stand there and watch over you while you nap. Having to burn daylight hours sleeping then puts you on this Eat Sleep Poop Repeat treadmill that makes it very hard to find time to actually run around the giant campus, talk to all the random-ass characters and figure out what the hell you're supposed to be doing to advance the main quest line.

Even if you manage to clock the locations of the very few restrooms and get a good routine down of running between them, the free food stand, the water fountain and Charlie's bed when he's home, there's still the problem of the rest of the game basically being nothing but fetch quests. Some people have random problems you can help them with by selecting a conversation option, but most of these have tight time limits of a couple days and the Sleep N' Poop Treadmill might keep you from being able to finish them. Your Brains and Brawn level also gradually sink if you aren't finding time for the gym and the books regularly too. You'll need a job to get money at some point, and then you're supposed to be attending classes to work toward your degree too, but it becomes next to impossible to balance all that with the paucity of toilets and no regular bed to use. There's also some kind of dating aspects but I was always so busy scurrying at the command of my colon that I didn't have time to explore it at all. The girls seem to hate the nerd and slacker character but love the jock automatically, even if he's squeezing his cheeks together doing a little dance the whole time he's talking to them. Such is life.

The game had some potential as there's quite a bit going on, albeit nearly all of it being of a fetch-questy variety. It still might have filled an underserved niche in the West for fans of the Japanese time-management/dating games. Instead the bizarre fixation on making your character hit the loo and also making said loos incredibly rare and far between sinks the ship, along with the game environment just being needlessly large and time-consuming to traverse.