Sorority simulator Campus Life embodies the banality of evil

, | Game reviews

You don’t need diamonds in Campus Life, a sorority-themed free-to-play iOS treadmill unencumbered by gameplay. Well, you need them, but you don’t need them. Sure, you can just watch them trickle in one at a time until you’ve got maybe seven or eight. The things worth buying cost 59 diamonds, and 112 diamonds, and 32 diamonds, and 66 diamonds, all prices that work their way under your nose whether you like it or not because Campus Life is built entirely and only to sell diamonds, like De Beers, but on iTunes instead of Africa. In another week, you’ll have 12 diamonds. You’re well on your way to affording something this November.

So when Campus Life asks me if I want to challenge my friends in exchange for a single diamond, I’m all, like, you bet I want to challenge my friends! That’s why I’m here, playing this godawful unashamed mercenary excuse for a game. I want my friends to suffer like I did when I got a Campus Life spam challenging me to advance my sorority house to level eight. I’m making a mental note of who on my friends list to grief as I press the challenge button. It’s going to be glorious.

It’s only when nothing happens after pressing the challenge button that I realize with horror I’ve just sent a Campus Life challenge to all 195 people on my Gamecenter list. I never got the option to single out the people I wanted to punk. Instead, I have been punked by Campus Life. All for a single lousy diamond.

After the jump, I stick around in case it gets better

Campus Life is vapid and vacuous, without charm or personality or energy. It is raw artless treadmilling designed to prey on people who don’t know any better. It is the sort of game [sic] that gives the iOS and Facebook a bad name (if Campus Life isn’t on Facebook, it should be). It is littered with dead-ends and detours and time sinks to encourage you to microbuy diamonds. It is stuffed with pointless frippery of no consequence whatsoever. You would never mistake it for a game, because it is not a game. It is a business model.

That said, let me tell you about my sorority! These girls find money, magazines, and candy by searching the sofa and coffee table. They earn money and pizza and bacon by searching the oven. They earn money and garden hoses and spades by searching the garden. The thinking seems to be they leave this stuff lying around and forget about it, only to discover it later. What a bunch of forgetful slobs. Given all the food behind the refrigerator and the money in the sofa, I’m amazed this sorority house isn’t overrun by roaches and panhandling hobos.

The girls quickly run out of energy, of course, at which point they can’t search any further until after a mandatory refractory period, during which nothing happens. I mean that quite literally. Nothing happens. You’re just waiting. The girls hang fire flatly, standing around their haphazardly adorned sorority house, which looks like something in a game where you missed an important graphics setting. Campus Life is like the Sims, but with the detail turned way down and the animations not working. And no sound. There is pretty much no sound in Campus Life beyond the bleeps and bloops of sorority girls hoovering up junk from under the furniture.

Every so often, the girls earn money and give it to the sorority (i.e. me). I spend it on the fifth-rate stuff that diamonds can’t buy. Sometimes I unlock a new chunk of terrain where I can expand the poorly detailed sorority house. I did this over a silently barking dog at one point, and now I have a dog quest. To see your quests, you have to shuffle through a lot of stuff designed to get young girls to pester their parents for money to buy Campus Life’s diamonds. Many of these quests are literally impossible to complete without diamonds.

Some of the quests are events [sic]. For the sushi party we’re throwing to win over a new sorority girl who apparently likes sushi, I bought a black dress with a plunging neckline. Now I’m tapping icons to argue politics, nibble, pour wine, roll seaweed, and argue more politics. These things have no accompanying animations of course and no meaning whatsoever. They’re floating stage directions that no one will execute.

Oh, I finally got enough pizza out from behind the refrigerator to save the puppies at the animal shelter. Now I’m going to save orphans. I can’t imagine where it goes from there. Maybe wounded vets, terminally ill cancer patients, and Syrian refugees?

Hey, I went to London with some dude who has a yacht.

I had to pay my own way. What a jerk. You’d think a guy who has a yacht wouldn’t make a hot redhead pay her own way. A new update to Campus Life adds boys you can get crushes on. Boys besides the one who charged me to go to London on his yacht. I haven’t seen the other boys yet. I bet they cost diamonds.

Every time I play Campus Life, a full-screen ad intercedes, always for another free-to-play game. I had to spend $200 to browse the web long enough to get smart enough to be promoted to house manager. If I pay $500 to study basic literature, I’ll be smart enough to get a promotion to house party promoter. That’s a thing. House party promoter. Of course, diamonds make you smarter faster, but it takes more than the eight diamonds I have. Calculus costs $3500, but it makes you smart enough to be a marketing manager. Don’t let anyone tell you that math — which is hard — isn’t useful.

Speaking of math, you can spend $200 to earn 20 smart points by web browsing. But if you instead spend $500, you only earn 45 smart points. By my math, you earn fewer points when you spend more money at once. Math proves that’s a terrible deal. Campus Life clearly wants you to come back more often so you sit through more full-screen ads. Math proves that Campus Life is needy and shrill. That must be why it frequently nags me to rate the game on the iTunes store, even though I already rated it. It was the first time I’ve ever rated a game on iTunes. Guess what I gave it.

1 star