Review: Plague, Inc. for the IoS

Plague Inc is a .99 cent (as of this writing) solitaire play game app currently available on the App Store. The creator was a small company called Ndemic Creations, this is their first commercial game release.

At first glance the game-savvy user will likely draw a rough parallel to the hit board game PANDEMIC. That’s valid, yet, a little skewed. You see, players aren’t taking the role of a dedicated world-spanning CDC teams, bent on eradicating plagues. Instead, the player assumes the role of the plague itself, constantly mutating and spreading from country to country, decimating world populations and destroying civilization as we know it. The victory condition is nothing short of the eradication of humanity through plague. Anything else is a defeat.

Title Page

At first glance, you get the sense that the upcoming gaming experience will just a tad sardonic. This ain’t going to be “feel good for the whole family”, kids.

Total Victory. All humans are dead or dying

Game play is far more subtle than I first assumed it would be. It looks.. well, snarky at first.. an arcade game that is quick playing with a theme that would appeal to people with, erm, darker senses of humor– a sort of “What if Ambrose Bierce programmed IoS game apps” kind of effort. Yet, it’s surprisingly well-crafted as a design. You don’t just click on a nation and infect. The plague is your creation, and you spread it by developing and mutating the disease with DNA points. DNA Points grow by spreading the disease.

These three pictures demonstrate how the decisions the player has to make to mutate his plague. Whenever the DNA points reach a certain threshold, he can change and improve TRANSMISSION (the vectors through which a disease travels), SYMPTOMS (nasty things the plague does, including killing people in horrible ways), and ABILITIES (mostly defense mechanisms).

As you invest DNA points, your plague will become more complex and far more lethal. It will spread far faster and kill far more people.

As the game proceeds and your plague population increases, up pop little balloons of DNA points which give you more points to invest in your sickness.

As your disease spreads through the initial spawning location, the map will go red as countries get overwhelmed– ports close, livestock gets slaughtered, pest programs increase, and populations go down. Eventually, governments collapse as chaos ensues. This is the goal of Plague Inc.

If you do your job right, the whole map will go red and literally there won’t enough people to fight the plague any more. The pace slows somewhat towards the end as people aren’t traveling any more, and populations have declined so much there isn’t a lot of transmission going on.

As you can see in the graphic below, things aren’t looking good for the human race. The Plague has advanced so far that there isn’t much of a global population left. Everyone on the planet Earth now has the disease, so we are going into endgame.

Of course, it isn’t always so easy. Do-gooders will try to cure the disease as soon as possible, and this is what the player has to work against to achieve victory. Disease fighting teams are dispatched around the globe, and the player has to squash these as soon as possible. A cure can’t take root or it will be hard to stop.

Danged do gooders!

Play is fast and furious and will keep a certain kind of gamer amused and entertained for about an hour of steady play. The basic game (which represents a bacteriological epidemic only) is 99 cents, but you can invest in in-game incremental purchases to change the nature of the plague from bacteriological to viral, or other scenarios like biological weapons.

In summary, I enjoyed this game tremendously. It’s like PANDEMIC in reverse, or perhaps more appropriately, BLACK DEATH by Greg Porter. Or perhaps even closer in theme to the Flash game called (ironically) “Pandemic” ( what are the odds?  See comments below).  Plague Inc. is very engaging and very much worth the pittance paid for it. Highly recommended.


    • Granted, I’ve only played Pandemic four or five times and not at all recently, but there was nothing in the games I played that matches that notion. Are you saying the focus of pandemic isn’t eradicating diseases? That was my experience. Is this something introduced in the expansion? I’ve never played that. My memory may be faulty…

  1. Aha! I see the problem. I was referencing the board game of the same name. Thanks for the heads up, I’ll make an edit to keep it clear.

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