Have you ever thought about genetically engineering a plague to wipe out humanity? Perhaps considered it but lacked the resources to turn your ideas into a practical experiment?  Well good news… Plague Inc. is a global pandemic simulation game that pits you against the world, in a race to create a plague to cause as many infections and deaths as possible before a cure is found.

There are three difficulty settings – Casual, Normal, and Brutal. These settings effect the behavior of the people in your virtual world, on Casual for example people don’t wash their hands, and sick people are given hugs – all helping your plague to spread. On the Brutal setting the world’s population seem to suffer from paranoia – washing their hands constantly, never giving doctors a day off, and locking sick people in prison.

After selecting a difficulty setting, you must choose a plague type – there are seven plague types, starting with a simple bacteria and ranging up to parasites and even bio-weapons. Only the bacteria type is available from the start, with others becoming unlocked either with in-app purchases, or by playing through the game with the other plague types. I found that unlocking the other plague types through gameplay didn’t work for me, and after reading some of the reviews on iTunes it seems I’m not alone, hopefully this is a bug that can be fixed, rather than a clever ploy to increase in-app purchase revenue.

A plague begins…

After choosing your plague type you are taken to the main gameplay screen, which is a map of the world, from here you must tap a country to begin your plague. I found Spain, Africa, and Saudi Arabia to be great places to begin, but Russia and the USA are particular tough. As your infection begins to spread you’ll see red dots appear on your map, eventually entire countries will be red. It’s a good idea to pick a starting country with airports and seaports. You’ll see ships and planes moving between countries, these will appear white if uninfected, and red if infected, this allows you to see your plague spread from its country of origin to other places around the world.

As your infection spreads you’ll earn DNA points, these can be spent to mutate your plague, this is where it gets strategic. You can mutate your plague in different ways; giving it new methods of transmission (air, water, insect, birds, etc), you can also mutate its symptoms (nausea, coughing, rash, organ failures…), and you can also mutate its abilities, making it more adaptable to hot/cold climates, or giving it resistance to drugs. The strategy element here, is that you want your plague to be as widespread as possible before it’s discovered, so you’ll need to find the best way to help your plague spread globally without being detected until it’s too late for a cure to be found. Once work on a cure begins your only hope is to mutate your plague; either to favor the conditions of the country where cure research is happening, so as to kill off the doctors before they cure your plague, or by adding drug-resistance to complicate and slow down cure research.

News Headlines
News Headlines

One of the features on Plague Inc which is love is the news ticker at the top of the screen, it’ll keep you informed of news headlines as your plague spreads and panic sets in across the globe, it’s a really nice touch.

Plague Inc is one of those games that could be played repeatedly with an almost infinite number of outcomes. There are so many variables involved, so many combinations of mutations, and so many available places to begin your plague.

Plague Inc really impressed me, but there is still room for improvement.  The news ticker does tend to repeat mostly same headlines in each game, it’d be great to see more time put into this feature, with a wider variety of news. Plague Inc is a universal app, so one purchase will give you the iPad and iPhone version. This is great, but don’t expect any optimisation for iPad, it’s simply a scaled up version of the iPhone game, complete with giant text and buttons. There is Retina display support for iPhone but not iPad, so those who play on a 3rd generation iPad will find the graphics look quite pixelated. However, the iPhone version looks beautiful.

The plague infects the last healthy human

One annoyance I found with this game on iPad is that the developers have chosen to hide the iPad’s status bar – that’s the 20 pixel high bar at the top of the screen with the clock and battery status. On iPhone’s small screen I can understand the need to use those extra 20 lines of pixels for the game, but on the iPad I’d rather be able to see the current time without having to quit back to the iOS home screen – especially when it’s very easy to lose track of time in a game like this.

Overall, this is a great game, with some minor technical issues that are not beyond repair – and shouldn’t put anyone off purchasing. I hope to see the developers continue to improve Plague Inc, it’s off to a promising start.

Link: Plague Inc. on the App Store

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