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The special enzyme, extracted from a beetle found deep within the rain forest, is unceremoniously pushed into the ioniser. The machine fires and activates the hidden medicinal quality in the ingredient. The remaining material rolls down the conveyor belt, and it's pressed into a pill and shipped off. You check the financial report. You're not making enough to justify the space occupied in your factory. So much for that rare acne medication you'd just discovered. This is business after all. This is Big Pharma by Twice Circled.

Yes, it's a business simulation, focusing on the exciting and potentially lucrative world of medical science. Import ingredients, create production lines, and sell off your finished product. Keep your most profitable drugs and clear away unprofitable ones for more financially acceptable ones. It's a cutthroat business to be sure, but it's one in which success can translate into a very rewarding experience.

The game on paper isn't particularly complicated. Bring in ingredients, adjust concentrations and mix other ingredients in to create medicine and ship off the finished product. However, in execution, the game is wonderfully deep, and requires some very meticulous planning of machines and conveyor belt routes in order to maximize your efficiency and, thus, your profits.

More profits of course means you can research upgrades and technologies to make even more valuable medicines. You can develop new machines in order to improve your efficiency and free up floor space, or send explorers out to remote climates and find exotic new materials with which to derive your cures. To top it all off, you can use your finances to expand your factories, giving you more floorspace and points to begin and end your production lines.

The game has a warm cartoonish look to it, which I think is welcome for this, as keeping things visually simple means that when production lines sprawl you can still make out easily by eye what's going on. And you'll have to be able to tell what's going on in the event that upgrades or new machines mean you can improve your lines and how quickly you bring in money. There are a few minor graphical glitches with the UI, such as elements not quite being the right size for the chosen resolution, but there's already been steady improvements made to these and I have no doubt that more are on the way. (In fact, I'm downloading another significant update as I write this.)

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Your facility sounds like you'd expect a bustling medical factory would. Spraying from distilling machines and whirring mixers creates the background noise as you build up your lines, the belts roll as product is moved along the way, and the various machines have their own sounds. It's a nice touch, and it means your factory creates its own unique soundtrack as you play. Consequently, just as no two games will likely play out identically, so too will they not sound the same. There is also a proper soundtrack to the game, and it's catchy and upbeat, and I swear it's made to intentionally work well with the sounds of the machines, as they all sound good mixed together.

Keeping the game from becoming stagnant are AI corporations to compete with. They will gradually develop their own medicines, including ones that will compete with yours, and they'll begin to dig into your profits if you don't adapt quickly. Deciding what concentrations to work with in your medicines for the best profits, as well as when to stop producing a long-running cure as it becomes less profitable is an important part of the game. Also to account for are random events in the world, which will drive up or down prices of various drugs. If something happens to drive up the selling price of painkillers, for example, it would be prudent for you to, well, exploit the situation and increase your painkiller production. Again, it's just good business.

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Business simulations are an interesting niche of games. They can tend to approach any industry and boil them down to their base elements to make something engaging to players. Big Pharma is no exception to this. The planning element is rewarding even if it takes a little time to get used to. It's got a rewarding difficulty curve, as the simplest of cures make way to more elaborate upgraded drugs and eventually compounds with lines snaking around and a chorus of machines working away to produce something powerful and valuable. People who enjoy business sims, and want to engage with something that requires planning without overzealous micromangement may find Big Pharma to be the cure for what ails them.