Let’s School

Review | Mastering Management and Creativity in Pathea Games' Take on The School Simulation Genre

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From running hospitals and developing resorts to running cities and ultimately playing god – the simulation genre of video games has experiences tailored towards pretty much any creative pursuit gamers have in mind. But while Two Point Studios thrived in condensing the intricacies of university life into a single game, school-based education has been waiting for its chance to shine. Thankfully, we recently saw the release of Pathea Games’ Let’s School, combining blocky aesthetics with intense school management systems, which will see you fill the shoes of a hands-on principal – balancing the needs of maintenance, staff and budget, all in the name of seeing your students through the final years of education.

You are a principal who is taking over one of three schools (as of writing) – a more Western-inspired school, a Japanese-inspired school or a wintery European-inspired school – each of which begins with virtually no name recognition within its local community and is for the most part, dilapidated and well in need of some TLC. Thankfully, you are there, eh? With this being a simulation game, you do what you would expect – tear down the rubble, use your limited (at first) resources to build classrooms, facilities and other amenities, hire a mixed bag of staff, and schedule out your first school week – hopefully seeing the students get the grades they need to pass their first year (week) of education. First impressions saw this looking like your standard run-of-the-mill simulation experience, a little light on the onboarding tutorial experience, but with enough content to keep you on your toes. Coupled with a more rural aesthetic (initially) compared to a more soulless, non-descript modern-day school with unique and sometimes quirky decorative/functional items to match, maybe you have started playing just a fun, simple game about decorating and running a school.

Let's School 1

But then the demands start rolling in. Do you want to expand to obtain students from other localities in your area? Better send your finest students to scope them out, and meet stringent criteria to have parents want to continue sending students your way. Did your first week go well? Great! But look, suddenly, many of your students don’t look like they will pass your curriculum and need to undertake specialty courses mapped into their homeroom timetable. Plus, you as a principal cannot take everything on board, and must now hire your ‘cream of the crop’ teachers to micro-manage those elements your in-universe replicant cannot. And research. You are a fresh school, and in this universe, you need to research almost everything outside of the most basic facilities and lessons. If you are playing in the story mode, at least until you have rotated a few cohorts through to graduation, it can feel like organised chaos and perhaps a little overwhelming. On the flip side, you don’t ever feel like you are short of things to do. Especially for its price point of $19.99 USD, Let’s School punches well above its price point and sticks the landing.

After releasing last year, Let’s School has rolled out a swath of updates this month as part of a new patch. This content not only comprises the aforementioned new map of Snow Cotton Town, setting players loose in a school set within a chilly, picturesque European environment but offers genuinely interesting concepts. The big feature is the new club’s system, allowing players to give their students activities to do within sports and music – with even more clubs expected in the future. Here’s hoping they open this potentially to the modding community as well, as while it has the potential to allow principals to tailor their school to their wishes, only Basketball and Pop Music are available right now. Two well-delivered feature-rich clubs that are not just “here is another room to put in your school”, but only if you are interested in those two specifically. Arguably the Pop Music club is the more interesting of the pair, giving players the opportunity to create their own simple school songs – a simple but suitably implemented idea. 

Let's School 2

What I like most about Let’s School is that despite offering a relatively simple aesthetic, it lets you go above and beyond in making your school your own. While you can name your school and customise your character, you have many options for uniforms, school emblems and more. You can choose to keep your school true to its rural roots and be minimalistic or can go above and beyond in crafting your facility to be a world-class, modern school with every bit of landscape and section of building tailored to your liking. Is it flawless? There is still a moderate amount of visual and gameplay jank, but nothing that overly hinders the experience, and the developer has been responsive in providing updates since the game’s July 2023 launch, so I’d expect anything major to come up to be remedied quickly.

With so many moving parts that replicate the school management experience but with their own twists for the sake of gameplay and an overall pleasing gaming experience, Let’s School showcases that indie teams with the right ideas can deliver charming, feature-rich experiences that can compete against even the big names in the gaming industry. Education is a simulation game genre that only a few studios have tackled in the past, and arguably few have done justice. Especially given its affordable price, Pathea Games has trumped the competition in delivering a satisfying school-life, school-building experience. I am excited to see where the studio will take this game in the future.

Final Score for Let’s School

8

Let’s School is now available to purchase on the PC via Steam.

A review code was provided for the purpose of facilitating this review.

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