Big Pharma Review
People get sick for all sorts of reasons. Maybe they touched something or someone they shouldn’t have and now they’re infected. Suffering is inevitable, death is probable. What will they do? They’ll count on the good graces of the pharmaceutical industry to develop a cure, or at least a means of minimizing the agony. But if you were the head of a pharmaceutical company – would you just hand out those cures like candy? Of course not. A person’s pain offers the potential for profits! And this is the concept of Big Pharma. You are the CEO of the latest pharmaceutical company and you’ll need to research and develop all manner of medicines while building a profit. Do you have what it takes to be a wealthy pill pusher? Here’s your chance to find out.
Big Pharma has a lot to offer, but it starts off as quite a daunting endeavour. Fortunately, the game offers a robust tutorial spanning 6 different challenges (ie: levels). Each tutorial challenge will cover a different aspect of the game, each one building off the last. I strongly suggest going into the tutorial with an open mind and a lot of patience. The tutorials are conveyed via a long string of text with some small pictures that you’ll need to follow along with. The whole process is painfully dull and oftentimes confusing. However, once you’ve gained an understanding of the game through the tutorial, you can start moving through each of the remaining seven groups of challenges. Each challenge tasks you with meeting a number of criteria. Some criteria are even tiered, allowing more skilled players to earn “Master” or “Expert” accolades. I appreciated the fact that you can skip ahead to any challenge in the game, so if you get stuck, or bored, you can try another challenge. You weren’t restricted to completing challenges in any particular order.
The gameplay is broken down into a few different aspects. The primary aspect will be the manufacturing line. Here you’ll build a string of medicine-making machines, connected via belts, that ultimately develop the various medicines. Each manufacturing line starts with at least one ingredient and must end in a consumer-friendly form such as a pill or a cream. Different combinations of ingredients and different machines will be used to develop different medicines, creating a sort of puzzle-like element to the game. You’ll need to understand each ingredient and each machine in order to get the results you want – and it’s not easy at all. To add to the challenge, you’ll have to spend money on research to discover new ingredients and machines. In fact, you spend money on everything in this game – and when you run out, you’ll have to start again. Some of the more difficult challenges will even have you competing against other pharmaceutical companies – adding even more pressure. You’ll have to juggle time and money, all while trying to decide which machines and ingredients you need to complete the criteria.
Satisfying Side Effects
Big Pharma is not overly impressive in the visual department. Everything is very simple, with minimal animations for the various machines. The various supplemental screens such as the Research and Ingredients screens are relatively static, without much flair. Obviously, since this game was originally made with a mouse and keyboard in mind, using a controller isn’t ideal – but for the most part, it worked fine. Sometimes, attaching machines together via belts was a bit cumbersome and rarely gave me the result I was looking for. Another minor annoyance was the fact that when you’re placing items such as belts, there is no direct way to access the Tools menu; to select another item, you have to first “cancel” your current item, then go into Tools. It just seems like an unnecessary added step. The audio department was a mixed bag. There’s some minimal voice work, usually indicating when a new medicine is complete. However, where the audio shines is the soundtrack composed by Mark Allsworth, and it’s a fun mix of electronic beats. You can check out the Big Pharma Official Soundtrack here.
Big Pharma doesn’t offer any multiplayer modes, but there really isn’t a lot of interaction when competing against the other pharmaceutical companies. If a multiplayer mode was to be introduced as is, it would probably just be a race against others to complete certain criteria first. Beyond the games challenges, you’ll also have the option to create a Custom Game, which allows you to toggle all sorts of different conditions creating your own challenges. Finally, you can go all out with the Free Build mode, which unlocks everything and gives you unlimited funds.
Big Pharma blends the popular simulation genre with some puzzle aspects, all while giving you the chance to be the CEO of your own pharmaceutical company. While the learning curve is incredibly steep, the end product can be a fun at times. The visuals are pretty minimal, but the soundtrack is fun and upbeat. There is a lot content here to enjoy, however one thing I wish they had done differently is add a big dose of humour to the overall product. It might have made the overall game feel a bit less dry. The challenges should provide many, many hours of playtime to complete, especially if you’re compelled to complete the Expert and Master criteria. Big Pharma might not be a cure-all product, but it should definitely alleviate that simulation itch for some.
***Big Pharma key provided by publisher***
- Addictive gameplay
- Banging soundtrack
- Steep learning curve
- Long-winded tutorial
- Minimal visuals