Stressed? Got a minute to spare, and a score to settle? Then why not wipe out humanity while waiting for the bus. Plague Inc. ($0.99) is a universal iOS and Android game that invites you to do just that.
By picking a name, disease type and starting location you embark on an ever-evolving journey through the blood of the infected, improving your infectivity and lethality in order to cause as much widespread death and suffering as possible.
Sounds fun? You bet!
Ode To Pandemic
Earlier this year I covered my favourite “pandemic” games in detail, rounding up a rich lineage of games that put population-control first on the agenda. The most famous of these games is Pandemic, an old Flash game that virtually invented the interactive disease genre. Unfortunately, little came of Pandemic in the age of iPads and 99 cent downloads, despite the huge potential that developers Dark Realm Studios were sitting on.
Instead it was up to Ndemic Creations to bring the microbial murder simulator to our mobile devices, and what a good job they did. Plague Inc. doesn’t feel like a cheap copy of a once-great game; but a carefully crafted refinement of the entire genre for the current generation of hardware. It even manages to exceed expectations by fleshing-out the many horrible variables on offer.
When you first start the game, you can only choose to create a bacteria. There are seven “normal” plague types ranging from virus (rapidly mutating, hard to control) to bio-weapon (exceptionally lethal) as well as seven separate “special” plagues including a neurax worm (which burrows into the brain) and cheat-like viruses which stop government intervention and deny the possibility of a cure. Through playing through various games of Plague Inc. you will unlock these various disease types.
There are three difficulties to choose from for each game – casual, normal and brutal. The difference here is down to factors like hygiene – on casual mode, nobody washes their hands, research doctors don’t work and sick people are given mandatory hugs (that’ll help your infectivity). The harder it gets, the more compulsive the hand-washing comes and on the brutal difficulty sick people are even put in prison.
You’ll be invited to name your disease and right before unleashing it on the world you get a chance to modify the genetic code. These optional genes provide perks such as an increased chance of spread by a certain method of transport, resistance to a certain climate and so on. These too are unlockables which you must discover before using them, or if you’re feeling lazy then you can pay $0.99 per gene or $7.99 to unlock all 30.
These really do swing the odds in your favour, and buying them not only makes the game easier but denies you the satisfaction of unlocking them yourself. Paying to unlock certainly isn’t a requirement, and you’ll find it more rewarding to do it the hard way.
Before unleashish your personalised concoction on the world you’ll need to choose a starting country. Where you choose makes a large difference to how the game pans out. Pick a hot, dry country and your disease will have trouble spreading to colder or more humid lands. Richer countries are harder to infect due to better medicine and drugs, while remote countries don’t see as many visitors before the borders are closed.
Those of you who spent hours playing later versions of the aforementioned Pandemic will remember Madagascar and Greenland being notoriously difficult to infect, so if you want to avoid that scenario you can opt to start there. Seeing as there’s plenty to unlock and a whole skill-tree awaiting you, Plague Inc. encourages you to experiment by changing your tactics from time to time.
Once your disease is in the wild you have indirect control over its payload using DNA points accessed via the Disease button. These points are used to mutate the disease by adding abilities like resistance to drugs and heat, symptoms like cysts and nausea and transmission methods like insects and livestock. Unlike Pandemic, your disease will also sporadically develop its own traits which is bound to keep you on your toes. Don’t forget: the more symptoms your disease has, the easier it is to spot and isolate.
DNA points are earned through your total number of infections, as well as by tapping the orange DNA icons that occasionally pop up on screen. You can control the game speed by tapping the clock, which makes laying low and waiting for the infections to rise a fairly quick process. The World button at the bottom of the screen provides you with information about the visibility of your disease, cure progress and raw data about your wave of annihilation.
Plague Inc. also has a slightly cheeky sense of humour that manages to lighten the mood on what is essentially a doomsday simulator. The use of quirky descriptions and the occasional funny news story offsets some of the darker elements, which is nice.
Addictive & Rewarding
The use of Pandemic-style “destroy the world” gameplay alongside a skill tree makes this already addictive game rather rewarding to play. The more you play, the more you unlock, and in an age of gamers who demand more than a core gameplay experience but longevity too, Plague Inc. is a shining example of how to successfully expand on an already solid idea.
Have you played Plague Inc. or do you remember Pandemic? Let us know in the comments, below.