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Plague, Inc. Review: Infectious Fun

I’ve never had as much fun plotting the infected death of all humanity than I had reviewing Plague Inc. , the first app from Ndemic that’s been a hit in the App Store of late. Based on the actual field of infectious disease, Plague Inc. is a surprisingly fun sim that turns the tables on the CDC.

In Plague, Inc., you take control of an infectious pathogen. You begin with bacterium, but as you unlock new modes you can choose to play as a virus, a fungus, a bio-weapon, and even a nanobot swarm; each pathogen type brings its own little quirks to the game.  Then, you choose a country to begin infecting, and you begin the race towards your goal: eradicating humanity.

There is a fair amount of scientific flavor to Plague, Inc. I cannot say how accurate it is (ask a virologist), but it feels authentic. As your disease spreads, you gather DNA points to mutate your disease in one of three areas: Transmission, Symptoms, and Attributes. Manipulating these three categories helps to spread your infection further and kill more people. And there’s nothing bizarre here; all the symptoms and vectors and mutations are things that could actually happen to a pathogen spreading around the world.

Is the game morbid? Sure. But is it also fun? Heck, yes. I could see someone trying to create a sim where you play doctors stopping the infection (one probably already exists), but there’s something so much more satisfying about playing the role of infection. It’s especially fun in the later stages of the game, when your disease has spread far and mutated considerably, but you’re still trying to find a way to cross the last few borders and infect the last few countries.

Some of the fun will come out of the game when you realize that there’s basically one winning strategy that is guaranteed to kill off the human race. The strategy is widely available online, but it will become pretty obvious to you within the first two game modes  (hint: remain unnoticed). This sameness is the biggest complaint I have about Plague, Inc. Each of the pathogens functions basically the same, with a few differences (nanobots, for example, are fighting a cure from day one). Thus, one strategy more or less wins them all.

The good news is, it’s not the highest scoring strategy. So once you’ve used it to unlock all the plague types, you may want to go back and figure out faster, deadlier, higher-scoring ways of killing off the planet. A better use of Game Center integration and achievements would help replayability, too. Also, they should move the Fungus type further up the difficulty line — it’s way to hard for its position in the progression.

The screen space could also be better managed. There’s a permanent news banner that overlays part of the world map, and it can get in the way of claiming DNA points. Even the ability to zoom the map out a little further would help solve this.

Minor issues aside, Plague, Inc. is an impressive first offering from a new indie developer. I hope that they tweak the game in updates to make the game a little less one-note, but even in its present form it’s still well worth the $0.99 asking price. Pick it up today and start infecting the world!

Our Score: 4 out of 5.

 
 
 
 
 
Game Name: Plague, Inc.
Plaforms: Universal
Publishers: Ndemic
Version Reviewed: 1.2
Genres: Sim
Release Date: June 12, 2012
Price: $0.99

I’ve never had as much fun plotting the infected death of all humanity than I had reviewing Plague Inc. , the first app from Ndemic that’s been a hit in the App Store of late. Based on the actual field of infectious disease, Plague Inc. is a surprisingly fun sim that turns the tables on…(Read the full article)

I’ve never had as much fun plotting the infected death of all humanity than I had reviewing Plague Inc. , the first app from Ndemic that’s been a hit in the App Store of late. Based on the actual field of infectious disease, Plague Inc. is a surprisingly fun sim that turns the tables on the CDC.

In Plague, Inc., you take control of an infectious pathogen. You begin with bacterium, but as you unlock new modes you can choose to play as a virus, a fungus, a bio-weapon, and even a nanobot swarm; each pathogen type brings its own little quirks to the game.  Then, you choose a country to begin infecting, and you begin the race towards your goal: eradicating humanity.

There is a fair amount of scientific flavor to Plague, Inc. I cannot say how accurate it is (ask a virologist), but it feels authentic. As your disease spreads, you gather DNA points to mutate your disease in one of three areas: Transmission, Symptoms, and Attributes. Manipulating these three categories helps to spread your infection further and kill more people. And there’s nothing bizarre here; all the symptoms and vectors and mutations are things that could actually happen to a pathogen spreading around the world.

Is the game morbid? Sure. But is it also fun? Heck, yes. I could see someone trying to create a sim where you play doctors stopping the infection (one probably already exists), but there’s something so much more satisfying about playing the role of infection. It’s especially fun in the later stages of the game, when your disease has spread far and mutated considerably, but you’re still trying to find a way to cross the last few borders and infect the last few countries.

Some of the fun will come out of the game when you realize that there’s basically one winning strategy that is guaranteed to kill off the human race. The strategy is widely available online, but it will become pretty obvious to you within the first two game modes  (hint: remain unnoticed). This sameness is the biggest complaint I have about Plague, Inc. Each of the pathogens functions basically the same, with a few differences (nanobots, for example, are fighting a cure from day one). Thus, one strategy more or less wins them all.

The good news is, it’s not the highest scoring strategy. So once you’ve used it to unlock all the plague types, you may want to go back and figure out faster, deadlier, higher-scoring ways of killing off the planet. A better use of Game Center integration and achievements would help replayability, too. Also, they should move the Fungus type further up the difficulty line — it’s way to hard for its position in the progression.

The screen space could also be better managed. There’s a permanent news banner that overlays part of the world map, and it can get in the way of claiming DNA points. Even the ability to zoom the map out a little further would help solve this.

Minor issues aside, Plague, Inc. is an impressive first offering from a new indie developer. I hope that they tweak the game in updates to make the game a little less one-note, but even in its present form it’s still well worth the $0.99 asking price. Pick it up today and start infecting the world!

Our Score: 4 out of 5.

Date published: 07/10/2012
4 / 5 stars

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