It’s rare – for me anyway – to find a game that you can start in the morning, then an hour or so later you find you’re calling the clock a liar for pretending it’s now 10 in the evening and you wonder why your stomach has shrunk and you seem to have a dehydration headache. Big Pharma is one such game.
Created by Twice Circled, a one man team (Tim Wicksteed) and currently in beta, Big Pharma is probably one of the finest early access indie games out there at the moment in my opinion.
To begin with Big Pharma has a somewhat tedious and I assume unintentional mini game in which you explain to your friends that it has nothing to do with a fat man in dungarees sat in a tractor, but is in fact a business tycoon game focused on the production and sale of pharmaceuticals.
In layman’s terms Big Pharma is a space (as in area) management tycoon game, in which you get an ingredient from one port to another while fulfilling certain requirements along the way, cramming equipment in however and wherever it will fit. If you put a gun to my head and said what game does it most resemble? Firstly I’d say you’re over reacting and then I’d probably say it’s like a love child of Theme Hospital and Tetris… But it’s so much more than that.
When you start the game you’re given a list of scenarios each with different challenges, for example the first scenario is as simple as earning a million dollars in the first three years of production. Each scenario then has a three tier rating so the perfectionist in you could quite happily grind away on achieving top marks for each challenge which certainly gives the game a level of replayability.
In the first scenario after the tutorials, you will start in a small building and just two ingredients, the idea is to turn these into a marketable pill or cream and you do this by adjusting the concentration of your ingredient (stay with me it sounds more complicated than it is!) to get it in “the sweet spot” you do this with machines that either Increase or decrease the concentration. Once your pill cures genital warts (or any other number of diseases and illness) and has minimal side-effects you get to name it and ship it out to pharmacies. Production will then continue as you gain a steady stream of profit. Neat!
There are options to hire explorers to find new ingredients or generate points to reduce the cost of ingredients and likewise there are researchers to research new equipment or points to reduce the cost of using said equipment. From the get go you have the option to expand your building to access more ports for additional drug creation, or even just to fit that extra evaporator in a current chain.
Whether you want to play it altruistic and strive to provide the best possible drug to the customer or a money oriented tycoon that can look beyond the “May cause terrifying nightmares” side effect as long as big sacks of cash are involved that’s entirely up to you, but be warned you are in constant competition with rival pharmaceutical companies in an ever evolving world, so you might find your “Warts No More” pill won’t always be as profitable as you had hoped as rivals release “Bye Bye Warts” cream and that pesky government starts a safe sex campaign… Damn government.
Later in the game you’ll progress beyond basic remedies and start upgrading your ingredients to cure different and more serious ailments, although not complex it can sometimes be challenging as your factory floor starts to resemble a particularly intense game of Snake and you desperately need to cram one more agglomerator in, but that’s all part of the stress inducing charm of Big Pharma
For an early access game it is beyond polished. The clean and pleasing graphics are a joy to stare at while you scream at whoever designed the machines you need for placing the entry and exit ports the exact opposite direction needed. The conveyor belts are a little fiddly although the game has just been patched to include cross road conveyors and I have yet to try these out so it could possibly solve the minor inconvenience of placing and replacing conveyors. It’s a miniscule irritant in what is ultimately an incredibly fun and time consuming game.
This probably won’t become your favourite game of all time, but it does what it’s meant to and it does it very well. There’s something so simplistic yet unnaturally satisfying with this game that just makes you want to keep going, make all the drugs, remove all side effects and beat that damn rival company into the dirt. I’m sure worried neighbours will be rife with kids pleading with their mothers “Please just one more drug before bed!”
You can only pick up the game from the official website for the time being which will provide a download link and a steam key for when it eventually gets released on the platform.
From what I’ve played and seen on the game it’s worth the 15 or so pounds already and it’s still in development, but there’s a lot more to this game than I can reasonably write without boring you all to tears so if you’re still unsure I would suggest checking out a trailer, the official website or a let’s play on YouTube, I won’t shamelessly plug my own channel by linking to ours but I’m sure savvy readers like yourselves could find ours or another’s should you be so inclined.
I would certainly recommend Big Pharma and will continue my “Rub Dirt In It” pharmaceutical company for some time to come I’m sure.