Plague Inc. is a realistic strategic simulation of what happens if you introduce a new disease into the world, with your goal being not to stop its spreading, but to aid it. Your goal: the complete eradication of all life (well, human life, at least) on Earth.
Sound familiar? It probably should; in fact, for all intents and purposes, it seems to be the same game as Pandemic 2.5, though we found this one a little more enjoyable. It seemed similarly daunting at first, upon viewing the game’s ‘How to Play’ section. But fortunately, you don’t really need to know everything right off the bat, as the game explains new elements as they come into play, thus providing a natural learning curve.
Plague Inc. features three difficulty levels with interesting variables between them, such as how often the world population washes their hands, how much research doctors looking for a cure will work, and what happens to sick people (on Casual, they’re given hugs; on Brutal, they’re locked in prison). But even on the easiest difficulty, the game can prove to be quite a challenge, and even building upon what you’ve learned from previous attempts can still backfire.
Shut. Down. EVERYTHING.
Oh, and if you want to move on to other types of disease (virus, fungus, etc.) from the starting bacteria? You have to successfully wipe out humanity on Normal or Brutal mode. Harsh.
When you start, you can name your plague, but unfortunately, you’re not given a lot of room to be particularly creative. In fact, the placeholder ‘Disease Name’ that you are to replace takes up more room than the nine digits you’re allowed. So instead of spreading Hyperpotoholicmania across the globe, we had to settle for ‘The Okay’ (and when that failed, ‘The Okay2’).
For the most part, you select a starting point and watch the world map as the days tick by, about one day for every second or two. It’s fascinating, in a way, as the map tracks the spreading of your infection; watching the planes, boats, and so on move about the map is like watching a swarm of ants at work.
Oh, and there’s a nifty news ticker as well, which presents different types of events: borders closing, cures being worked on, an unnamed company releasing an ‘iCure’ electronic device which isn’t very good at resisting water, and the President of the United States having to step down due to illness (not to mention the relief expressed at having the Vice President take over, rather than one S. Palin). And we managed to cancel a couple of World Cups, too.
On occasion, bubbles pop up and require you to touch them, thus acquiring DNA points to help evolve your plague. Unfortunately, the touch sensitivity for these could use some work; sometimes when you touch them, they don’t disappear, and they don’t always trigger the sound for when you touch them, leaving you to wonder if you got them or not.
They grow up so fast.
The DNA points can be used to help enhance how the virus is transmitted (birds, rodents, insects, cattle, water, air, etc.), the symptoms experienced (coughing, tumors, rashes, and on to more fatal effects), and what abilities it has (where it can survive, how it reacts in lab environments, number of strains, and so forth). And on occasion, the plague will even evolve abilities on its own without you spending points, though depending on how you play, you may not want them to. Fortunately, you can ‘devolve’ the plague and get a couple of free DNA points back for your trouble.
Unfortunately, without playing a REALLY long session, you’re likely only going to be able to gain so many DNA points overall, so you can’t put too much stock in, say, creating an invincible virus, or else you won’t have enough to make it lethal enough to bring mankind to its knees. But make it too problematic too soon, and work will begin on a cure before you’re strong enough to resist.
Once they do begin work on a cure, it becomes a race to see who can finish who first. Along the way, ‘Cure’ bubbles, similar to those for DNA points, appear. Touching them is supposed to slow down the development of the cure, but from our experience, the difference is negligible.
Killing the world through disease sounds like an easy enough thing, but Plague Inc. makes one realize just how difficult it can truly be. While some may find the level of challenge engaging, others may be turned off by how even the Casual mode can thwart the best laid plans. This results in a game which is fun, but perhaps more for a patient individual than one who wants humanity dead as of yesterday.