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Review Roundup: To Be or Not To Be, Space Program Manager, Talisman: Highlands

Brad Cummings
United States
Connecticut
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Ryan North's To Be or Not To Be
Availability: iOS Universal, Android
Price: $5.99
App Store Links: App Store, Google Play

As I mentioned in my review, Appointment with F.E.A.R. marked a new chapter in the legend of TinMan Games. To Be or Not To Be takes what worked in that last installment to bold new Heights. Based on a novel by Ryan North, this choose your own adventure story takes you on a meandering path through a story many of us will be familiar with.

To Be or Not To Be lets you go through this story has several characters and even switch characters mid story. The game features a piece of art that maps out all the combinations and it is staggering. Unique to this game, certain choices will actually be marked with skulls and following these will more or less lead you down the Shakespeare version of the story. However, these choices often seem like the silliest option and the game will mock you throughout.

It is hard to say a lot about this game without giving away the story. The game is extremely funny and generally pretty mild in its humor. Definitely not a game for kids, but nothing too abrasive. The UI is similar to previous titles, though, again, the focus really is on story and choices, not sort of light RPG elements here. There are interesting art pieces scattering throughout the branching paths and plenty of new storylines to discover. It feels extremely repayable.

While it may lack the gamey flare of 80 Days or the 3D battles of Lone Wolf, Ryan North’s To Be or Not To Be proves that a straightforward branching story can still work. TinMan Games really knows how to do this best and the have succeeding with flying colors here. This is clearly their masterpiece so far.



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Buzz Aldrin's Space Program Manager
Availability: iPad (PC/Mac)
Price: $12.99
App Store Links: App Store

Slitherine has a knack for publishing games that feel like they are from a bygone era. In the time of Kerbal Space Program comes Buzz Aldrin’s Space Program Manager. This game is more about the sim of running a space agency rather than the physics of launching rockets. You’ll spend your time navigating menus and allocating resources, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

This initial release of the game goes up to the lunar landings and allows you play as the Soviets or NASA. Your main view is that of your space complex. From here you will interact with buildings as well as construct new ones. The main focus is on missions that start a simply as space planes and increase in difficulty up to the lunar missions.You'll soon higher a team of engineers and astronauts. These brave men and women will specialize in different areas and eventually comprise group teams and mission crews. Based on past successes, you will receive funds each year. These can be allocated to missions, building new buildings, hiring and training new astronauts, and more.

Space Program Manager is a immersive experience with no required knowledge of physics. You really get into the meat of balancing testing, funding, and competition with other nations. It’s not about science, it is about managing that science within constraints to achieve success.

This sort of simulation game really fits well on the iPad. The game is almost entirely menu based and pretty easy to navigate on your lap. Admittedly, the UI can be a little overwhelming at first and some buttons do feel small. This is likely an artifact of the game’s PC roots.

Buzz Aldrin’s Space Program Manager is a pretty enjoyable simulation game. It could definitely use some improvements in UI (so many menus!) and a few more mechanics to increase the pace, but what is there is pretty fun and respectful to the history. If you are a love of space flight, this game is a must have for you. If you are looking for a challenging streamline simulation game, you might want to keep looking. It is a really informative game from a historical point of view but usually allows that history to trump engaging gameplay in many cases. I’ve enjoyed my time and will be sure to spend more, but it definitely is seeking a certain discerning palette.



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Talisman: Highland Expansion
Availability: iOS Universal, Android
Price: $6.99
App Store Links: App Store, Google Play

Talisman Digital Edition is still pleasing with more and more content coming all the time. The game just received its latest expansion, the Highlands. This new board adds in new challenges and a whole bunch of new cards. Your goal is to climb a mountain that is constantly pushing you back. If you reach the top, great treasures await, but the climb will not be easy.

The expansions includes several new characters including the Pirate and the Ninja. For Talisman, the key is variety. Sure, things get crazy with all current expansions activated, but that is certainly part of the fun. One of my favorite additions in Highlands is the inclusion of Trinkets. These small items do not count towards you item total and provide small bonuses. I love the feeling of carrying a tone of stuff without have to worry about mules and such. It really gives that feeling of searching for treasure on the mountain.

If you are not a Talisman fan, this new expansion is not going to change you mind, but if you are looking for a shot of variety, this is certainly worth the price of admission. While the previous two expansions have felt a little darker in nature, this once certainly takes things outside and into new and varied locales. I certainly recommend picking this up on your platform of choice.
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