I am still sick. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s coming up to three weeks now. I’m starting to think that my chicken-soup-and-Lemsip smoothies with paracetamol sprinkles aren’t working. Aren’t working well enough, that is! Time to double the dosage!
If I’m going to be suffering so much, all I can ask is that everybody else of the entire planet feel as awful as I do. It’s the very least that I’m owed. Unfortunately, walking down the High Street coughing at everyone is probably a sure-fire way to get arrested for ‘Being Weird With Malicious Intent’. That and I have enough trouble getting out of bed in general, let alone going outside and meeting people.
Luckily for me, there’s a way of both distracting myself from the decay of my internals and satisfying my need for global empathy/suffering. Handheld app Plague Inc. lets you unleash a disease of your own design onto an unsuspecting world.
There are many of these types of game around, and they’ve been about for years. The first I remember playing was the Flash-based Pandemic, many moons ago. While many iterations of the theme can be found, Plague Inc. is probably the best disease simulator I’ve come across. The aim of the game is simple – infect people to earn DNA, spend DNA to evolve your disease, and then try to kill all humans. Succeed in wiping everyone out and you’ll unlock a different kind of disease to play with.
There are roughly 10 plague types for you to choose from, ranging from simple bacteria, through to parasites, bioweapons and the mysterious Necroa Plague (read: zombies.) Each has their own individual style of play – for example, the Virus has a higher chance of random mutation, making it difficult to control, but it means that it can develop helpful (or deadly) traits without you having to spend DNA points.
DNA is the resource you earn by infecting people, and you spend it upgrading your disease. You can buy new methods for transmitting your disease (for example, ‘water-borne’ or ‘insect vectors’), for increasing its potency in different climates, and for unlocking new symptoms that it will cause. These start off benign enough, coughs and rashes, but can be rapidly evolved into scarier things like comas and necrosis.
Eventually, some nosy doctor is going to wonder why their patients are complaining of mild nausea whilst they hemorrhage blood from their eyeballs, and the world’s governments will begin to develop a cure. The speed of development will depend on how nasty a bug you’ve cultivated, and from then on it’s a race against science to kill them before they kill you.
It’s the little things that make Plague Inc. special – a ticker tape that announces fake but believable news stories, the red spiderwebs drawn by the movement of infected planes and ships around the globe (something to note – planes and boats do not cross the Pacific Ocean. It’s nothing that will majorly affect your enjoyment, it’s just an odd quirk.)
In my opinion, naming your disease is the best part. Maybe it’s because I’m an immature child trapped in a man’s body or maybe- oh wait that’s totally the reason. Still, nothing is more satisfying than reading that “scientists are uncertain of the source of The Smell” or “Your Face has killed more people than smallpox”. That’s solid comedy gold, right there.
Games are short, lasting roughly 15-20 minutes, which is perfect for playing on a bus journey or to kill some time. Costing less than a few quid for iOS and Android (I got it through the Google Play Store for about 80p), Plague Inc. is a fantastically infectious little puzzler that I can highly recommend.