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Review: Plague Inc, by Ndemic Creations (universal binary)
Plague Inc., by Ndemic Creations
$0.99 (with various cheats and unlocks available for in-app purchases), ****
• Well-designed infectious disease game
• Incorporates a variety of play modes and difficulties
• High replay value
• Not sure the various “disease types” are too accurate, no competitve mode
Plague Inc. is a simple game with a simple goal – kill the world. In this game, you set up to create/release a disease with the sole goal of trying to kill the planet. While the scenario is never fleshed out, I always envision myself as a mad scientist trying to release the end of the world – your scenario may differ. While the game can be completely unlocked simply by playing (and winning) a variety of levels, there are also cheats and unlocks you can purchase for $0.99 to $5.99. For the purposes of this review, I unlocked the normal 7 plagues types for $2.99, but I did not unlock any additional cheats.
In Plague, you start off by infecting a single country of your choice, and then trying to spread to the rest of the world, ultimately killing everyone. But as you spread, you have to be careful. In addition to the world trying to develop a cure, you have to watch things like killing people too quickly (before you infect enough people) or becoming too common before you are ready to start to kill (and thus the world developing a cure too quickly). You can modify your various strategies though DNA points. DNA points are collected throughout the game at various rates, and you can increase them by infecting more countries. They can be used to purchase “upgrades. Upgrade can include new methods of transmission (such as by mosquito or through the water) and new symptoms that may help spread the infection (like sneezing), increase lethality (like immune suppression), or decrease the rate of finding a cure (like hysteria). Upgrades also include genetic ability, like cold resistance, viral instability, or (especially important in some regions) cure resistance.
As you play and spread, the world slowly becomes aware of your presence, and tries to develop a cure. This is when it becomes a race – you against the world, who will win. And let me tell
you, it is particularly frustrating when you have killed 99% of the world’s population, only to have a cure found when there are a few hundred thousand people left.
The game has three difficulty levels (easy, normal, and brutal) that influence things like the rate of spread, how easy it is to find a cure, etc. In addition, there are 7 normal plague modes – bacteria, virus, fungus, parasite, prion, nano-virus, and bio-weapon. While each of these is fundamentally different, in my experience each is slightly harder than the previous as well. Your strategies and game play will vary based on the kind of plague type you choose (for example, a bio-weapon is extremely lethal to start, while a virus may be spread very easily at first). The biologist in me questions some of the decisions in the game design based on the plague types, but they are still fun!
The game is very easy to pick up. When you start, the only unlocked game mode is “bacteria”, and as you defeat each game plague, the next one unlocks. This actually works pretty well, because you can develop an understanding of each plague type. But if you are impatient, you can unlock them all (for $2.99) as well as other game modes. I didn’t try the “Neurax Worm” or any of the three plague types (Immune, Hidden, or Unlimited), but those can be purchased or unlocked if you beat all plague types in Brutal mode.
A new feature in the game also lets you unlock new “genetic modifications” – gene changes you can include at the beginning of the game to make it slightly different. It appears these genetic modifications are similar to the ones you can purchase during the game, but there are about 25 different ones that are available for unlocking, so there may be more variety.
I wish there was some way to have a competitive game with another player, although I am not sure how that would work. Incorporating the Game Center for things like “fastest spread” or “most lethal” would be interesting as well. I also wish you could have multiple active games at once, but if you start a new game, any saved game is immediately lost.
While the game play itself was fun, and it does require a little bit of planning, too often I found the same general strategy would win the game most of the time. If you plan to spread as fast as possible, and then evolve into a lethal strain, it seemed to me you would end up killing the world relatively quickly. It is not a guarantee, but it seemed to work more often than not. There are some random events that happen that influence the game mode, as well as random mutations that may occur, but after playing it multiple times it seemed too easy to beat (although in fairness, this was in normal mode, not brutal). Incorporating more random events (that are detrimental or beneficial for you) or requiring more variety of game strategy would improve the game somewhat. Creating something like an “advanced” mode when you have more direct control over gene manipulation or evolution would be interesting as well.
All in all, this is still a fun game that I have found myself going back to play multiple times. The game play is easy to pick up (even for my 9-year old daughter, whose disease “Slap” has killed the world many times), and has enough variety to keep my interest. While I have found the game enjoyable multiple times, I still wish there were some more advanced variations or some sort of competitive online play. The addition of new genetic manipulation at the start of the game is interesting. At $0.99, the game is a definite recommend, and you can save yourself some money from the in-app purchases if you have the skill and patience to beat the game in various levels to unlock the new diseases. I give this app a four out of five stars rating.
* = No redeeming qualities or features, probably not worth it even if it is free
** = Few redeeming qualities, or is simply isn't worth the price
*** = Some good features but also some clear flaws.
**** = A solid app, worth the money if interested, a few flaws or problems or slightly overpriced
***** = Top of the line app, no problems or drawbacks.
Price is factored into the ratings. Ratings are lowered if I feel the price of the app outweighs the benefits/enjoyment/features it provides. Likewise, an app that is a good value for the money will have a higher rating. Please comment on these reviews. All opinions expressed in this review are precisely that – opinions. You may agree or disagree. If you own the app, tell me what your opinion is. If the review prompted you to buy (or not buy) the app, let me know why. If you want more information about the app, go ahead and ask.