Before the usual suspects pipe up, yes, this is a stopgap review of a game I played this week because I haven’t yet had enough time with Ni No Kuni to give my full opinion on it. However, I currently have neck pain from looking down at my phone while playing Plague, Inc., so clearly it has to be worth talking about. In fact, it’s infectiously addictive. Haha! I’m a comedian.
In case you didn’t get the awful joke above, Plague, Inc. is a game in which you are an infection. Rather, you control the evolutionary path of an infectious pathogen, from bacteria through to prions, with the ultimate goal of the annihilation of humanity.
Gameplay takes place on a map of the world, where the player initially chooses which of the numerous countries or regions they want their plague to start in. Each country has different characteristics – they can be hot or cold, humid or arid, rich or poor, highly connected by way of airports and sea ports or not. These are all factors to take into account when deciding. For instance, the player must make a decision between building up their infection slowly in a rich country, hoping to cripple its research capabilities early on and steamroll over the poorer nations, or evolving quickly and unnoticed in a poorer nation and attempting to rush the richer countries before their improved scientific facilities can be brought to bear.
Yes, the game is not simply an interactive film of the downfall of humanity – those feisty simians will fight back, and as soon as your disease becomes widespread they’ll do their best to cure it. This is game over for your infection, since cure distribution is fast and effective, and the only way to succeed is to utterly annihilate your foes.
Fortunately, you have several ways of addressing this threat. Again, one of the options is simply to slaughter enough people to slow down the research rate. This is risky, however. Killing your victims too quickly stops them spreading the disease and can actually have a detrimental effect. Instead, you have the option to spend DNA points to purchase evolutions like a DNA reshuffle that renders some of the existing research useless.
The whole experience is brought down somewhat by the difficulty. There are a few ways to win, for instance starting in China, Saudi Arabia or Egypt, but outside of those confines it can be almost impossible. Even then, there are limitations in terms of infecting countries that are particularly isolated or have extreme weather – Greenland comes to mind.
The game also loses points for having one of the most incessantly annoying soundtracks I’ve ever had the misfortune to endure. It’s certainly creepy the first time you hear a choir of children singing ‘ring around the rosie’ in an increasingly anguished way, but by time twelve you’ve thrown your phone out of the window in fury. The flash game this is based on, Pandemic, didn’t have any of these annoyances and this shouldn’t either. I know the game can be muted, but that isn’t the point. The player should not have to put up with grating noise permeating an otherwise fine game.
To round off this mini-review, it’s important to note that Plague, Inc. is free. Well, 65p if you want the ability to play at a decent speed, but when a game costs less than a can of Coke it’s effectively free (as well as a damning indictment of the Coca-Cola Corporation). It’s fun, moreish and strangely satisfying the first time you doom your fellow man to the embrace of the wintry earth. Obviously it’s not perfect, but very little is and you should definitely give it a try. I’ll review a proper game next week, I promise. 7/10.