The Lost Reviews – Big Pharma

19 10 2016

big-pharma (twice circled - 2015)

You know when you played Theme Hospital (assuming you did, because, you know; why wouldn’t you?), did you ever think to yourself: “I could be doing so much more here, why don’t I leave the life of being a Hospital CEO and go into Pharmaceutical Production?” Well chances are that you thought no such thing as for one; Theme Hospital was a game, not real life or an RPG, and for two; you were really quite content with the game you were playing at the time. If it were the case though that one day while playing Theme Hospital and you actually thought the above statement, well now you can – not in Theme Hospital, but in a game that focuses on the production of Medicine based products.

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Big Pharma (produced by Twice Circled) is a game where you the player are managing director of a pharmaceutical company. You start your company off with a small brightly coloured interior warehouse and a few inventions and ingredients at your disposal to which you can use to create cures for illnesses. All you need to do is put these assets into production and sell sell sell.

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Game play is very simple; in your empty warehouse you need to use one of the holes in the wall to import an ingredient, and then use machines at your disposal to meet certain requirements before either finishing off the ingredient mixture or upgrading it to be a cure for something else. Once that is done, you need to turn the current ingredient into a manufactured cure by putting it through a pill maker, and then transport it to another hole in the wall to name it and sell it. Later options at your disposal include creaming the drugs instead of selling them as pills, and even packing them. The game though is not as easy as it sounds as machines, conveyor belts and equipment take up space (turning it into a mini puzzle game in the process) and you have a limited area, plus in some cases are required to create a catalyst in order for some cures to be upgraded. The game though is not all about Medication Manufacturing, as it’s also a part business and research sim. You will be required to hire explorers and researchers to discover new ingredients and new machinery, while at the same time use their down time to provide you with upgrade points. At the same time however, you need to be concerning yourself with making money too, as production costs can be quite astronomical, and your company is in competition with others.

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Big Pharma is a nicely animated little game. The game graphics are nicely detailed, but not too detailed so can work on most machines without a fuss. The Animation though is superb. It can be quite mesmerizing watching the ingredients progress along the conveyor belts, changing form and colour as machines work on them, and watching the machines work is a nice little added extra, and comes with a form of animation very similar I find to that of Theme Hospital. Watching the water boil in the Dissolver, or seeing ingredients pulped in the Agglomerator, working their way down the production line and being made into either pills or as a cream. It’s really fun to watch and nice little bits like that really help this game to provide a detailed experience.

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The game; all be it relatively fun and still pretty unique, does have its short comings. For one, I like the idea of creating a production line, but the production line does seem to be rather slow, I did not know that Conveyor belts started and stopped every second, I thought they just kept going? It can take a while for the process to complete and when you need money fast, but the conveyors only move at one speed (which is sort of move and stop, move and stop), or the other cases where you are trying to reach a deadline in the game’s objectives mode, it can be very annoying. You can of course speed things up with the mystical speed change options in the bottom left of the screen, but you may as well just keep it up at full speed in that case just to speed up the game and make the conveyors more realistic. The objectives are not bad and it is pretty fun going through each one, just to give you something to do in the game, but with your mind on reaching a certain objective, you may as well ignore everything else in the game, and concentrate on what you need to do rather than what else you could be doing. Then once you have done enough and or have reached your goal, you do have the option of getting a better score than the basic score which is a nice added add-on, but by this point you may as well just speed up the game in places or end the level just to be done with it and do something else.

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Most of the cures you make can be upgraded relatively quickly on, but they require the use of machines you have not unlocked yet, in which case I found myself spending time and money in researching the things I needed each time before sending anything in production, just to be able to give the game the best I could. The other thing though is the Catalysts. The game comes with a very comprehensive tutorial mode which is very descriptive and also very fun, but each time I tried to do a catalyst in the real game, I would not achieve it. Making catalysts is supposed to be hard, but when you are doing everything right, the catalyst still does not make itself, and it can be very annoying, especially as sometimes you need that upgraded cure to move on.

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Big Pharma is one of these Production line games that have begun to make a real appearance in the industry along with other games like Factorio. Making a production line is a good fun idea and when combined with making product to sell turns the game not just into a factory based game but also a resources and economic game, where you need to concentrate on not just making a good product but also turning a profit. I like that idea, and when combined with the games look, idea and animation, it makes a good fit that is at least to begin with a fun game to play. But as the game progresses and its short comings come to light, it becomes a game that I was once excited to play but now don’t really see a future for. Maybe I like my games with a little more realism in its depictions of production, but for its slow speed, but also relatively pointless extras during its objective based gameplay, I feel that this game was once fun, but then just ended.

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GENEPOOL





The Lost Reviews – Turmoil

3 08 2016

Turmoil (Gamious - 2016)

What is one way to get an insight into other forms of work while also enriching your television viewing experience? Why none other than the Discovery Channel. For many years now the channel has been a showcase for many varieties of TV shows which depict ordinary people exploring other avenues of work that you or I probably would not consider, other than possibly to get rich and famous as quickly as possible. Shows in this line include of course Deadliest Catch, to more recent programming like Gold Rush and Gold Divers. Now while it may not be the case that you or I would consider going down these routes of work, I have recently been playing a game on Steam that I find is very similar. There is no war, no guns, no racing; just lots and lots of Oil.

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Turmoil (by Gamious) is a cross between a tycoon simulator and a puzzle game, where you play one of four characters who are trying to get rich quickly in the Wild West by drilling for oil. To begin with, you are given some cash and a free plot of land to drill for oil. Initially you can only work for a few months before the level ends. As time goes past however you may work many more months in the game to a whole year. As the game progresses further you will experience different areas of land such as snow and desert, and realise that there are other resources than simply oil to dig for.

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The game is relatively simple to play; it uses a nice combination of mouse and hotkeys (if you prefer) for controls, while each level is a flat, 2D image of a plot of land. To begin with you only have a few resources, and have to rely on Dowsers to find Oil, when they have found a spot, they jump for joy and tell you where you can roughly find the spot. From here it is up to you. Initially you will need at least one horse-drawn Wagon of which to transport your oil to prospective purchasers, and will also need to construct a Rig to get the oil out of the ground (one or two Silos probably wouldn’t go amiss either). From there it is up to the machines to pump it out, and the wagons to collect the oil. On each side of the map there is a factory, to whom you can sell your oil too. But be careful, for if you send the oil to them when the price is low, you are not going to get much for it. As the level progresses, prices go up and down, more oil can be revealed, and more money can be made, but once the level is up, that’s it! Any remaining patches, or oil you did not sell is just wasted, and fines can be charged if you spill any. Once a level is up, you are provided a summary of how much money you made, to which you can use in the local town to bid for more land, buy improvements, bribe local dignitaries, and much later on, buy out some of the town.

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Turmoil is a nice simple little game to play and is nicely presented in an aesthetically pleasing, yet simple 2D interface. It takes away the need for a full 3D game where you will exhaust hand power having to move around some mining camp. Instead, it’s just a simple case of point and click and manipulate what you want to achieve as thus. The real joy to this game is that at heart, it is a game about drilling for oil and making as much money as possible. You don’t need to worry about building anything else other than the resources needed to pump and store oil. The upgrades you can purchase are easy to implement once purchased, and come in real handy really quickly. The levels themselves are rather interesting to look at, particularly the depiction of the pockets of oil, and it can be fun to see oil be pumped out of the ground. The reality of the game gets no finer than the experience of sheer joy when you find a large pocket of oil, one you believe in whole honestly that, that is where your fortune lies. It’s a shame then that the game does have some short comings.

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At heart, Turmoil is a game about drilling for oil and making money. If it was just left to that it would be a nice little game with plenty of energy to keep it going. Halfway through however, the game introduces a second dynamic, which then just takes over, and becomes entirely about taking over the whole town by purchasing stocks/shares. It just gets irritating, that while you plan out what upgrades you want, and what area of land you are going to purchase next; that before you can get to drilling, you need to take part in a stock auction you don’t really care about. That is until you discover that is how you win the game at all. By that time it’s too late, and then you need to take an interest the next time you play in order to win. It’s just annoying, as I would rather have the game be about something else, and only include that in some form of multiplayer, which the neither has nor needs, as it’s perfectly pleasurable by itself.

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Any other issues I have with the game come down to minor bugs that more come down to PC performance issues and miss clicking. Most of these though come down to human error as the game finds ways to trick and deceive you into a false sense of positivity, making you think that you are making money, where as you could be making more if you kept a more careful gaze. Quite a lot of the time you will find yourself clicking on the speed up button, but as a level starts, this is only natural as you want money fast to get more later.

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Altogether, Turmoil is a nice fun little game that can be either played briefly or for longer periods. It boasts a pleasant graphical view while also providing you with simple yet easy to use controls that can be used in more than one way. More than that though, it provides an enjoyable insight into a resource rags to riches tale that’s really immersive and makes you feel like you are there, and enjoy your success while also regretting your failures. It’s just a little 2D game, but it has a lot of Heart.

Turmoil 8

GENEPOOL





The Lost Reviews – oO

15 06 2016

oO4

I don’t know if you have ever seen The Cube on ITV; well if you haven’t, The Cube is a game show presented by Philip Schofield where contestants enter a small plastic/glass cube and have to complete skills based challenges in the hope of winning some cash. The only problem is that all the tasks are really hard (except to this strange faceless woman who is somehow able to complete all the tasks no problem). Most of us probably would never think or consider (or get round to) appearing on a show like that; but I think I have found a video game that works just as well.

oO3

oO is a game about travelling through circles, what this has to do with large Perspex boxes is about to be explained. Basically, you have been put in a large box and have been given the duty of ensuring that a small white dot safely makes it through several circles of different shapes and sizes without getting hurt by either nasty looking spikes or getting crushed between the circles. There’s no real story to this game, it’s a simple puzzle game involving circles, spikes and dots all situated inside a large box with no windows.

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oO is as it comes really. Controls are pretty simple; you can press either the space key or left mouse clicker to cause the transition of the small white dot from inside the circle to outside the circle, and when directly next to a circle into that circle. It’s pretty simple to begin with. All you need to do is get the dot through the circles to the end of the level. There are safe points in the system of circles as you transition from one to another, if your little dot gets destroyed, it goes back to the last safe circle, once you make it to the next safe circle, you don’t need to worry about going back. As the circles continue, it gets harder to transition through them. Some of the circles are smaller than the others and so transitioning between them can create near misses and fatalities. But that’s not all; many of the circles contain spikes. Some of these are static and don’t move, while others can move, disappear, come back, can cause difficult patterns, the lot (well as far as the lot as they possibly can go). Some levels even change and disorientate you as the circles are now jelly like objects. These though are more bonus levels than anything else.

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The game has a nice simple interface as all you are really doing is clicking or tapping. The graphics are nice and simple, a 2D interface of white circles with the occasional vanishing and reappearing red spikes. The background of the big cube is nice and presents a different colour per level. This though I find a little bit wasteful as you are concentrating more on the circles, not just the weird cube in the background sometimes with other floating cubes inside it. I feel like this game could be improved in its look by being on a completely flat background colour. That though is fairly minor an issue as compared to a couple of other things. The levels feel overly too long. It feels and plays like there is no end in sight and you begin to wonder what on earth you are doing. It gets boring in this aspect very quickly. Also the lack of a life system means that your little dot just constantly keeps on dying and dying with no end in-sight. If there was a cut-off point, at least then there may be some replay value for those situations as well as a sense of achievement. Also, the controls are rather fidgety and unresponsive. Imagine the scene; when you have finally figured out your timings, and are ready to get the circle from this one solitary sphere to the next; you click the button, and…..nothing. So you wait for it to come round again, but still nothing. This can continue a lot, and when it finally goes in, your timings have gone completely awry and it quickly dies due to a miss click.

oO is overly long, can quickly get boring and some of its graphics just seem like a waste. On the plus side however; it’s easy to pick up, play and looks nice. While it is a hard game, it is still relatively simple for most people to simply give it a go. It’s the kind of game that you need to really try out to see what you think, but generally it’s alright.

oO5

GENEPOOL





The Lost Reviews – Hook

19 05 2016

HOOK (Rainbow Train - 2005)

I have always loved those puzzles where you had to make a route from one side to another. You know the sort of thing, where you might have to direct a flow of water from the tank to the tap, but there are obstacles in the way; like those hacking puzzles in Bioshock. I just love the technical aspects of such puzzles plus the stress of getting it right first time (plus the fun of getting it wrong…on occasion). Well Hook is sort of like those puzzles, except instead of building a route; you need to completely demolish it.

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Hook is a 2D puzzle game where you have to click on switches, clear routes and send messages, all for the purpose of clearing the entire level of obstacles. Sound confusing, well it is. To play the game all you need is your mouse, and in turn you will be clicking on a black button to send a message to remove some sticks from a big maze of sticks. Some sticks though are blocking others and you will need to remove those ones first to remove the others. Once all the sticks in a level have been removed, the level is complete and you progress onto the next one. It’s sort of a mix between Pick up Sticks, and Kerplunk. As the game progresses, further little bits are added to increase game difficulty, ranging from circles that need turning to connect routes to one another, as well as wireless/Wi-Fi like messages to remote routes not connected to the main puzzle.

In terms of the game’s difficulty, the first few levels are all pretty easy, but by the end they are extremely complex. To begin with you don’t need to worry about making mistakes. Eventually though lives are added. Once all your lives are depleted, you have to start the level all over again. Hook’s graphics are simple yet effective. It’s a white background with dark greyish lines showing the routes and sticks. Nice and simple, but not at all confusing. Great work has been made to make them look nice and crisp and not jittery or block like. It’s a smooth looking game, and the animations are just as smooth. Even little things like sticks overlapping each other, to the sending and receiving of signals are nicely made. Hook does not really have a soundtrack as such; it’s just the sound of blowing wind. It’s like imagining yourself at the O.K. Corral. This lack of music though is nothing too bad, as the lack of sound really does help you to concentrate on what is happening. It’s not exactly peaceful though, as the level of silence and the occasional gust of wind can really increase the tension and frustration, the good kind.

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The only real problem I have with this game is that it’s a bit quick. The first few levels are nice and easy, but it takes a while for the levels to get harder, which is what you want. It’s a puzzle game; it’s meant to be tricky. It’s only really into the second half of all levels that it gets any trickier. These levels take more of your time to play, but the level of difficulty, gameplay, not forgetting the frustration, is what you want in a puzzle game. But as soon as you finally get these levels, the game is nearly over, and once you get the hang of everything, that’s it the game is over. All levels are completed. I have no desire to replay this game either. It was fun; it could just have been longer. The lives system is fun, but a higher level of consequence would have been nice too.

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Hook is an addictive game, and you will find yourself unable to do or think of anything else other than play Hook continuously until you have finished. It lacks achievement though; there is no real reward for playing a game that’s just too easy and too quick. At best, it’s a casual little game to play when you have a lunch break. On the other hand if you have a whole day off; I would suggest playing Borderlands instead, at least there is more to do in Borderlands, and it’s longer.

HOOK 2

GENEPOOL





I Am Not Cut Out For Space Exploration

1 04 2015

Space Planet

Recently I have been playing FTL: Faster Than Light on Steam. It is a rather fun game. It’s sort of a cross between a puzzle game and an RTS (Real Time Strategy) intermixed with the subject of space exploration. I quite like it and continue to play it, but it has taught me one important thing; and that is that I am not cut out for space exploration (even though the likelihood of me receiving the opportunity of going up into space in the first place is very unlikely).

FTL

Now basing such a statement on a video game could be seen as something of a rash statement, but here is why I think that. When I got it; it made me think of games like Evil Genius in terms of its internal look, as in the ships in FTL looks like the lair design in Evil Genius. I liked the idea of doing something similar to Star Trek or possibly Firefly (Even though I have not seen Firefly and do not consider myself a Star Trek Fan, even though I have watched the occasional episode of Next Generation and occasionally Voyager). Just the idea of going through space, exploring it and controlling the aspects of my ship while engaged in specific situations.

Space Shuttle

The thing is, for many years I have calculated that I would more than likely go insane if I went into space. Just the idea of being somewhere that I would not exactly consider safe, but also being left to drift in space, even if I was in a ship or station. But it’s from playing FTL that I came to the conclusion of the earlier statement. While I have begun to improve through understandings of previous missions that have all gone belly up, even so much to the point of me having yet to clear the first stage of galaxies (I have unlocked the second ship; The Torus, even though it is a pretty pointless ship) my planning and reactions in the heat of the situation usually lead me to defeat. Some of these though can come down to me causing the issues from bad planning and excessively opening the doors. When an intruder is on board, or in more common occurrences, a fire breaks out, my first plan is to cordon off the areas where my ship’s crew are, and then open the doors into space to suck out the oxygen. It works mostly, but eventually people break through the doors. When an intruder is on board though, I usually stick as much of my crew as I can, in the medical bay so that when the intruders get there, my crew get healed quickly. These ideas though don’t work all the time and sometimes my crew will die trying to put the fire out as the doors are broken and me having to regularly send them to the medical bay before they die. Unless of course the medical bay is damaged and needs fixing, or the oxygen is cut off.

Kestrel

Other cases though include my willingness to fight ships to gain resources off them and denying them surrender in the hope of getting more resources off them. Eventually this has led to complete destruction, uncontrollable fires, intruders on board and oxygen leaks. The number of dead Kestrel spaceships that must be floating through space thanks to me must be astronomical. While my learning of these situations has led me to the point that I need to upgrade what systems I can to expect these situations, I need to show restraint when given the opportunity to fight, as well as let them surrender every now and then.

Kestrel In Space

I don’t know if FTL is how space exploration works or not, but given that I am playing it on easy mode and I have met failure on several occasions, I can quite confidently say; that I am not cut out for Space Exploration.

Space Planets

GENEPOOL








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