NPLB

Preview: No Pineapple Left Behind

Self-described as a strategic satire – No Pineapple Left Behind is delightfully dark, with interesting concepts which challenge the idea of state education. Initially, I was convinced this was a School Tycoon experience, with a level of satirical commentary about children’s needs and requirements in education. Luckily, the open alpha set that straight.

Developer: Subaltern Games
Publisher: Mastertronic
Previewed on: PC
Also Available On: Mac, Linux
Release Date: Open Alpha Out Now

First off there’s no building mechanics and you’re stuck with the scenarios and schools you’re assigned to. The two locations you have access to in the alpha don’t differ too much from each other, and the layout doesn’t make a difference game play wise. The locations also don’t have that much detail to them, but suffice in separating the students/pineapples out.

You’ve probably read that last sentence with a bit of confusion. Students or Pineapples – well here is where the beauty of No Pineapple Left Behind lies. The general idea is that Pineapples are potentially the choice of a generic object to symbolise generic traits students share. Pineapples themselves are easy, all they do is take tests and learn – they can only earn grades. They don’t have any desires or social traits, therefore earning money for the completion of their education.

Children however, they are a lot more complicated. They can’t just focus on school and tests, their social obligations get in the way. Their friendships, their crushes and they’re interactions with others cause their grades and attentions to falter. It’s satire is based on the dichotomy of the pineapples vs the students – and potentially the swap or changes each make along their educational journey. Students can turn into pineapples, and pineapples can turn to students as well. Managing these potential changes is key to success.

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Success is based on grades – and if a child is getting worse grades because of their feelings or emotions, your reward is lower.

There is a dark comedy vibe flowing throughout the title, especially when it comes to the management of the combined pupillage and what you have to do to make them achieve their goals. As pineapples are fairly simple, there isn’t much at the moment that you need to do to directly affect their performance – apart from the standard teaching standards you set. Children, on the other hand, are inherently complicated. The relationships they gain the traits they have and the goals they wish to achieve, may impact their attention and their ability to learn. This is where your underhanded, devious teachers come in.

At base level, teachers are the same, albeit with a couple of stat and subject differences. The real differences come when you begin to structure the teaching styles and ‘spells’. A teacher has a teaching style and a spell. The style determines overall success of the class, with different styles costing more ‘power’ or ‘energy’. Each style has their own rewards, but as they get better, the risks are higher. The really interesting and dark part comes with the spells.

Each spell has it’s own effect, which can feel mean and can give you a warped view on the education system, and the success vs failure of students in different social situations. The spells can remove personal traits, the need to achieve a goal or even destroy a friendship which a child has. The child in question may not be focusing on the subject of class, but more that they want to see their crush or converse with a friend. Removing their friendships means they have nothing else to focus on other than school – dark right?

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The experience flows fairly well, and I think there’s more depth than what’s currently on offer within the alpha. The two scenarios guide you well through early stages, with the tutorial being nice and interactive which is always appreciated. Hiring your teachers and managing your children and pineapples – with the connotations of messing with their lives and potentially their futures – is interesting and enticing. You feel bad for doing it – but as the head of the school, results are the only things that matter.

Subaltern Games have successfully hooked me in. I’ve been waiting for this experience for a couple of months now and I’m happy I got a chance to jump in and give it a go. No Pineapple Left Behind entices you with a satirical, dark comedy game which, if the full version lives up to the alpha, will be a great conversation starter and a weirdly surreal experience. The idea of state education will be challenged, and it’s fantastic that someone is looking to make a message about the education system, poking holes in all current logic and thinking.

The alpha is open to everyone, so give it a go and let the developers know what you think.

No Pineapple Left Behind Open Alpha Link

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A co-owner of the Palace and the Tech Guru. He also co-hosts "The Geek Show" podcast and hosts "The Unhinged Gamer" videos on TPoW TV. You can catch up by following him on Twitter or (most likely) gaming: PSN: UKMickyJay - XBOX: Micky Jay.

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