You know what sounds like a fantastic idea? Turning all children within the schools into mindless drones that only take test and get grades. How about instead of them being drones, they become pineapples? That’s the principle behind No Pineapple Left Behind.
Let me start this review out by saying that this game is a heavy satirical look at the educational system within the United States. Your goal, as the player, is to manage a variety of different schools throughout the levels. You’ll be faced with different challenges, such as dealing with overcrowding and a bus driver strike. However, only one thing matters at the end of the day – the grades that your students get.
No Pineapple Left Behind (NPLB) is a simulation/management game. You need to manage your school, deciding what courses your teachers will give, and you need to aim to get as high of grades as you can. The better the grades of your students, the more money you receive. Unfortunately, children tend to have things they want to do besides get good grades, and that just isn’t acceptable! You’ll need to transform these students into robots who do nothing but live and breathe good grades. Okay, maybe not robots, but instead we’ll just turn them into pineapples.
On the management side, NPLB is both a nightmare and fairly intuitive to use. Your days will roll by in a block-by-block session, and depending on how many types of lessons you can have, you’ll have anywhere from 2 to 5 different lessons in a day. Trying to manage each of these teachers can become a headache, though thankfully you can do some quick management through the “Teachers” panel. Once more features start getting added in, such as higher tier lessons and supplies, this panel will provide quick access to all of your teachers. This is much better than trying to hunt them all down on the map, something I’ll talk about more in a bit.
Each teacher has a maximum of 4 lesson types – called “Spells” – that they can access. The first two are the same across the board, and the last two will depend on what course they teach. The third spell is available for purchase with 3 experience (which is gained for each successful class you teach), and the fourth is available with a combination of the Librarian and 5 experience. In general, the higher the spell is, the stronger the effect will be, and the more energy it will cost to use. Do take note that some of the higher tier spells will actually give your students some Humanity rather than taking it away, so you’ll need to be sure to find a careful balance.
So to achieve the best students possible, one doesn’t want children attending these schools. Instead, we want the previously mentioned pineapples who just live and breathe getting good grades. In order for a child to become a pineapple, you will need to suck out all of the humanity from them. This is best achieved through the various courses you have access to, though as I said, some do actually give humanity instead of taking it away. Once they reach 0 humanity, that child becomes a pineapple and now only wishes to attend classes, and doesn’t care about silly things like relationships or friends. Who needs those anyways!
On top of the courses, you’ll also eventually gain access to supplies. These supplies will add a variety of effects, including giving your teacher some energy, adding more “Grades” to a course, or taking (or adding) more humanity. These supplies do cost money, with the higher effect ones costing the most. In some cases, you’ll need to do some heavy micro managing to get the best out of these effects. Sometimes you’ll want to have your course cost less energy, other times you’ll want to try and get as much “Grades” out of a course to get the highest possible outcome for the day possible. Once they unlock though, they are definitely fairly handy, and without them you’ll likely find the level they unlock on extremely difficult to complete.
One other tool at your teacher’s disposal is lasers. Also purchased with experience, these can be used by selecting the teacher and then right clicking on an eligible student. These lasers can allow you to do things such as try and cheat your students’ grades up, take away their friends (each friend gives an effect of Grades-2), or force them to lose humanity. The cost for using these lasers is that your teacher needs to use some of their energy, something that can become a precious commodity later in the week.
Energy is a resource that affects what all your teachers are able to do. Each class will use a predefined amount of their energy, and the only way to recover it is with certain supplies (which essentially just lower the cost of the class) and by getting paid. The amount of energy you recover from getting paid is directly influenced by how much you pay your teachers. The cap you can recover per-day is 40 (coming in at $400 paid per day), and you can easily use more than that each day. The lower your energy is, the less likely your classes (spells) are to succeed, and a failure can have harsh effects on the Grades and Humanity of your students. You’ll need to find a fine balance to get the most out of each day, something that can take a bit of trial and error to get right.
The UI in NPLB is a bit all over the place. Some windows feel far too large, and I was often having to quickly X out of some windows just to get to things like pausing the time so that I had more time to think. There are definitely places where it feels like the boxes could be smaller (or wider instead of taller) and still serve the same function. There are also times where you’ll need to click some pieces twice as they simply don’t respond to your first click.
I only ever encountered one major glitch within NPLB, and thankfully I was able to figure out something so that I didn’t lose all the work I’d put in as it happened right as I was about to win a level. There was one case in which I needed to earn at least an average of an A- to complete the level. Right on the day I pushed through to complete it, one of my teachers got stuck on a table in the lunchroom. Thankfully I was able to solve it (and thus win the level) by simply firing him, but had that happened on a prior day – or if firing him hadn’t solved the issue – I would’ve been quite frustrated.
While I did only encounter one major glitch through my time playing, there was definitely several little annoyances I ran into. The first is that doors didn’t really seem to exist, that they were simply there to be like “Look here, we have doors!”. Even though the students will “open” the doors, they tend to just walk through the walls a lot while the door constantly goes between open and shut. Even if a student just passes by a door, it’ll still fling open even if they don’t walk in.
One thing I really did not enjoy in NPLB was the Fruitbol section. You’ll unlock Fruitbol somewhere around the 7th level. In order for Fruitbol to happen, you need to have a Gym Teacher. At the end of the day, the matches will occur. You can only use students who didn’t fail any class during that day, and you really want your athletic students to participate in it. To me, Fruitbol felt fairly disconnected from the rest of the game and I just did not enjoy it at all. It’s a neat idea to have “gym” class, but it just felt disconnected from the main core of what NPLB is.
The sounds in NPLB are fairly basic. The teachers will give a short little blurb if you click on them, though it does get old fairly fast. There’s also fairly minimal music, and I quickly ended up turning on my own music as otherwise I would have just been listening to mostly silence. Music only seems to actually play on the main menu and when lunch time rolls around. The main menu music will likely blast out your ears when you first hear it, but thankfully there are some volume sliders in game to help turn it down.
If you’re looking for a management/simulation type of game, then I’d suggest at least looking into No Pineapple Left Behind. The subject matter is fairly tough, and definitely does achieve the satire it is going after. With that said, it’s still only a game for more hardcore sim fans. The UI can sometimes drive you a bit crazy, and new elements tend to get introduced in multiples, leading you with a lot to take in with each level. The levels can also take a fairly long time after a while, and the game only auto saves at the start of each day. For some of the later levels, I was taking upwards of 2 hours just to complete it, and that was after I’d already figured out what to do and just needed to execute it correctly. If anything, this is a game worth grabbing if you can find it on sale and you are looking for this sort of thing.
No Pineapple Left Behind Review Score
No Pineapple Left Behind is available now on Steam.
I would like to thank Subaltern Games for providing me with a copy for review purposes.