Games for the Weekend is a weekly feature aimed at helping you avoid doing something constructive with your downtime. Each Friday we’ll be recommending a game for Mac, iPhone or iPad that we think is awesome. Here is one cool enough to keep you busy during this weekend.
Plague Inc ($0.99 Universal) is not just a game, it is a threat to all life forms on earth and must be taken seriously. It’s a strategic simulation game that makes you feel like the whiz kid Matthew Broderick portrayed in the movie War Games. The difference is that in Plague Inc you manufacture a biological end to all life on Earth rather than a nuclear one.
Each game starts out simply: you select and name one of seven different plague types. Each plague opportunity starts out as a simple disease that you need to evolve in order to become a plague. In the beginning, you get to choose the country that the disease attacks first. And that is where the intelligence behind the simulation starts to take root.
There are three difficulty levels in the game that describe the basic lifestyle choices that the majority of human beings make every day: how often we wash our hands, the work ethics of our medical professionals, and how we treat the sick and dying. It is much harder to spread any type of disease when everyone is compulsive about sanitation, we imprison those that have even the slightest symptoms of being ill, and have a dedicated society of medical geniuses that do nothing but work all the time.
Tied to the country of origin, how a disease spreads also has an impact on how the game plays out. If you choose a disease that spreads through human contact, you will want to pick a highly populated country of frequent travelers. You will even see little planes and boats traveling from port to port as you play the game. If instead it is to spread by infecting animals and insects first, the you will want to pick a country that has a good climate for them to exist. Since you choose your country before you start to evolve your plague, it’s a good idea to make an early plan right from the start.
Once your disease infects its first human, you will start earning DNA points that you can invest in the evolution of your plague. You have three categories to choose from when evolving: transmission, symptoms and abilities. Transmission evolution options will affect how fast the disease spreads. When you invest your DNA points into the symptoms of a disease, the faster the world’s population will erode. You can burn out a disease by eliminating all infected humans before the disease has a chance to spread, so a good strategy is to spread the disease to as many people as possible before you start to eliminate them. Once more and more people are adversely affected by the symptoms, the faster scientists will step in and manufacture a cure. That is where the abilities of the disease come into play as they ultimately prevent scientists from developing a cure.
Timing the evolutions of your plague will ultimately determine how successful you’ll be at wiping out humanity. Staying under the radar for as long as possible while you earn DNA points is a sound strategy; as soon as the scientists of the world ban together to find a cure, the race really begins.
As the disease spreads, messages pop up with a tie-in to real-world events. James Vaughan, Ndemic Creations founder and creator of the game, has been working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to bring the agency’s work to the attention of gamers — without scaring them and creating widespread panic. A lot of research went into making the game seem as realistic as possible.
The disease spreads over the course of many days that are tracked by a counter. To make things go a little faster, you can fast-forward the counter to speed up the evolution process. This also speeds up the creation of the cure. If you are in a real hurry to wipe out all of humanity, then there is a speed run challenge mode where you must evolve your disease into a full-blown plague in a few months rather than years. This weekend, place yourself in isolation and see if you have the biological skills it takes to evolve your disease into the next great plague of humanity.