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Buzz Aldrin’s Space Program Manager – Beta First Impressions

By on November 20th, 2013 11:24 am
Space Centre

Big things have humble beginnings and this space program is no exception.

Some of you who have been here a while will probably remember my first review where I reviewed Buzz Aldrin’s Race into Space. Well, what I have been waiting for a long time has finally come, since they are making a sequel, in body if not in name. Buzz Aldrin’s Space Program Manager and Buzz Aldrin’s Race into Space are both space program simulators. You run a space agency by scheduling missions, hiring astronauts and buying hardware. Fairly simple game mechanics making it easy to learn, but the difficulty of actually getting to the Moon with randomized factors like cursed programs and the like ensure every game is different and challenging. But that’s enough about BARIS, since you are here to learn more about its heir, Buzz Aldrin’s Space Program Manager.

One of the first things I noticed when loading the game was the lack of my resolution of 1680 x 1050, but that can be forgiven since the game is still in development and things like that can be expected. Checking online they are prioritizing gameplay and bug finding over graphics which in my opinion, is a very good sign. The campaign isn’t implemented just yet, so we’ve only got sandbox mode for now but it seems like it still gives you short term goals to complete. Once I got into the game, though, I noticed a pretty big difference from BARIS.

The space centre starts barebones and at the bottom of the screen, you have the information about various resources, engineers and the like. But, old time players of BARIS might notice something missing and I spent a few minutes searching for it myself. There isn’t a research building anymore, it’s been rolled into the HQ. I find that to be a rather odd touch. Sure, in BARIS you could click the main HQ building and go straight to research from there, but that wasn’t the reason the R&D building was there, it was a shortcut to save time.

Mission components

Everything packed and ready for space.

But research is still there, I can assure you. After selecting a program to follow in the HQ, you then end up at the research screen. Rather than just clicking assign research team for a cost of MegaBucks, you instead actually assign scientists, engineers or technicians (that SET you can see in the screenshots’ bottom section) to the project, with their own stats which in my opinion is a big leap forward. Each engineer can only be assigned to one project at a time and each brings different skills to that project so you need to juggle engineers around and they’ll research automatically.

But the old Kremlin/Capital Hill happiness system is gone, replaced by a new building. If you remember my review, you had to make get good prestige first to keep your government happy so that you can get more funding. But in this game, that doesn’t seem to be here anymore. Instead you have a public affairs office which works on a similar concept. Instead you receive a constant amount of money per turn, after a set number of turns you get a budget review depending on your prestige. No more waiting for a new year to receive your money, spend it on a Nova rocket that blows up the turn after and then do nothing till the next year. In traditional space program style, I decided to take a gamble on the Sputnik, let’s see if we can get something into space.

Once you’ve assembled the hardware, you need to select your flight controllers for the mission. They’ve all got different stats and you need a separate person for each job, same with engineering. Hiring specialists is therefore better than hiring all rounders. I like this feature a lot, it helps remove some of the edge from bad programs and allows you to compensate for bad safety ratings by having skilled staff. The turn goes quickly and soon enough, it’s launch time. But a feature has been removed, and that’s rushing the launch to beat the other program, and I think I know why. I’ll say why at the conclusion, but for now, let’s watch the launch.

That went really well for our first launch. But the game feels a lot more forgiving than BARIS and I feel that’s a step backwards. The game had a good challenge that made it more interesting. Every launch felt like a challenge. Hell, most of the time I bit my nails during the launches, never knowing if the men on board would be going to the Moon or to Arlington. But, in this game, with the cartoony graphics and the cheerful uplifting music, it doesn’t feel as serious.

In my opinion, the launch was too fast, it switched between the stages too quickly to build up the tension that exists in even the earliest launches of its predecessor. If you look in the top left, you’ll notice the frame rate counter from my camera. While you might think leaving it there seemed a bit amateurish, there was a very good reason for it. BARIS used to have slow downs during the launches when it came to the frame rate. Thanks to a gut feeling, I turned the frame rate on in the corner so I could tell if the game was going abnormally fast or abnormally slow. And, unfortunately, the game is going as fast as it should be.

Once you’ve put your first satellite in orbit, you have to put a living thing in orbit, in this case, a frog. This is actually rather surprising. This game has dozens more mission types than BARIS ever had, even at this point in development. I’m impressed, you can do unmanned flights of every capsule by the look of it, send probes to the Sun and Jupiter. So while that develops, I hire an astronaut.

This man is a true professional, let's hope he gets to go to space and live.

With stats like those, hiring him was guaranteed. Unlike the predecessor to this game, you can hire one astronaut at a time rather than being forced to hire a whole batch, most of who will never fly. But while waiting for the research on the frog satellite to be finished, the agency went bankrupt. You see, hiring personnel actually has a maintenance cost, something that was never in BARIS and that took me by surprise. So this is where the preview ends.


In my humble opinion, this game has a bright future so long as they adjust the difficulty to a reasonable level so it doesn’t feel too hard. But my main problem with the game seems to be the complete and utter lack of multiplayer. There’s no disabled button for it on the main menu or the launcher, and that’s a very bad thing. One of the biggest lures of BARIS was the competition between your space agency and the other player’s agency. Cheering when your rocket went up and crying when it exploded or when the dreaded other team got a prestige first. What this game has in depth, it seems, comes at a heavy cost for no multiplayer, a tremendous mistake in my opinion.

With a little luck, however, the developers will read this and add multiplayer, because since the game isn’t finished yet (it’s currently in beta under Slitherine’s early access program) there’s still a lot of time left for the game to grow and develop. What I have seen so far, though, definitely means I’ll be buying the game. Even without multiplayer, it’s still a solid foundation. I really hope this game does well, it has a lot of potential and is the legacy of one of my all-time favorite games.

Buzz Aldrin’s Space Program Manager: The Road to the Moon (first episode of three planned) is currently in beta and is expected to release (final launch) in Q1 2014 for the PC, Mac, iPad and Android. In the meantime the game is already available for the PC under Slitherine’s early access program starting at $19.99/€15.99.

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  1. Phil S. says:

    My question is, why would I play this over KSP? KSP has recently added the career mode and there is much more control and customization than it seems this game has so far(albeit very difficult when first starting out).

    • Happy Corner says:

      “albeit very difficult when first starting out”

      That may be your answer right there. I remember how I first got KSP and booted it up, only to realize that learning how to do ANYTHING in it was going to be a pretty intensive process. (The piss-poor tutorial didn’t help much, either.) Mind you, that level of complexity isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I wonder how many people gave up on it 10 minutes in.

      Perhaps Buzz Aldrin’s Space Manager Program will be more noob-friendly.

    • Lanceo90 says:

      Well they are different types of games. Nothing is left to chance or random in KSP. If you know how to play well there’s no challenge at all. A good player can get anywhere in the Kerbin system with the starting parts. And go anywhere/multiple planets in one trip in just the second.

      This game is a strategy. It’s rolling dice in the background against your staffing and research decisions. Randomly generating the stats for staff members. KSP is fun, but once you’ve done it all there’s not a whole lot left. Games with randomly generated factors have much more replay value.

      If Squad could develop KSP to the point where the whole solar system can be randomly generated at start up? It would be about the best game ever and a half.

  2. Lens Flares Suck says:

    Didn’t they recently announce the game would be released in ‘stages’ where you pay for it three times?

    When Blizzard does it, I suppose that’s ok. But here? Maybe not.

    • Hello, I’m one of the developers behind SPM.

      The plan has always been to release the game in stages, and this was announced more than 9 months ago, when the name of the game and the first screenshots were released. See as an example.



      • Phil S. says:

        This goes back to my first comment, what is there in these three stages that I can’t get from KSP(which includes everything that will be in your three stages for a much cheaper overall price)? I love these type of games, but I don’t like redundancy, especially if there is more “meat” to another game and for a cheaper price.

        I’m basically looking to be convinced as to why I should give you guys money! :)

        • Chris Salt says:

          Unlike KSP, SPM is a strategy game. You don’t manually control the flights, you control the space program by deciding what should have the program’s attention, assigning engineers and scientists, balancing the budget and so on.

          Then you watch your choices unfold in the launches. The launches in BARIS, for instance, are mostly made out of nail biting moments.

        • Hello Phil,

          Indeed, I agree with Chris, it’s a different type of game. If you like space exploration, both KSP and SPM should be on your hard drive :)

          Feel free to chime-in at the forums ( We have an interesting community around the game and the opinions/suggestions expressed there by the players certainly have an impact on the things we deliver every Friday with each new update of the game.



        • Happy Corner says:

          The supporters (and Chris Salt) have made their case decently.

          I’ll be looking forward to this one.

    • Lanceo90 says:

      Tell Tale Games is (sort of) of indie game company. The episodic release of their Walking Dead series is praised, not laughed at.

      Also, if it’s a three stage game at say, $10 a piece. You’re able to buy the first one to see if it will be the kind of game you’re interested in. If it’s not you save $20 by not bothering with the other too.

      If it was all the parts at $30 and you don’t like it, then its just tough luck.

      Not to mention we get it sooner.

  3. The Greys says:

    Soo… that’s all wonderful, but is the game realistic in showing meetings with Aliens or sightings of UFO’s like the Astronauts said? As in like what Gordon Cooper said and others. Cuz even Buzz Aldrin would agree that would be realistic for a NASA game.

    • Happy Corner says:


      I doubt we’ll see any aliens in this game, but I wouldn’t mind if they threw in that incident where Buzz Aldrin punched a Moon landing hoaxer.

  4. The Arquette Sisters says:

    I cannot understand why anyone would compliment Race Into Space given it had such a deeply flawed random number generator as to make it all but unplayable.

  5. Happy Corner says:

    Those who are interested in this game should know that Slitherine is having an Easter sale for the next couple days.

    Enter the coupon code SL-HAPPYEASTER! to get $10 off any of their games – including this one.

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Post category: Game First Impressions, Game Previews