Our Review of Plague Inc. (iOS)

Never before have infectious cysts been this fun.

We’re suckers for a good end of world movie.  Whether it be zombies in Shaun of the Dead, cataclysmic natural disasters like 2012, or a good old fashion killer plague like Outbreak.  Plague Inc. takes aim squarely at the last one of those and puts you in control of potentially the most deadly disease ever to hit the earth and lets you see how much damage you can do.  Yes, your goal is to destroy mankind and it’s a remarkably fun challenge.

We’re late to the game on Plague Inc. as the game launched by one-man developer James Vaughan way back in 2012 and skyrocketed to numerous best of lists then.  It was IGN’s Best Overall Strategy Game, it was the 15th most downloaded paid iPhone game, and has been purchased over 25 million times in its lifetime.  The developer ever partnered with 20th Century Fox in 2014 to make a tie in DLC with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.  We only recently discovered the game though due to holiday travel airport delays trying to find amusement on our iPad.  It was an impulse buy and complete worth the price of admission.

It’s a one screen game in that you’ll spend the entire experience staring at a map of the world.  When the game starts, you designate a country in which you’ll infect patient zero and then watch as the days tick by and hope that your disease can spread.  The minimalistic interface isn’t too disconcerting though as you’ll quickly lose yourself in the macabre gameplay. As people get infected you’ll receive DNA points that you can spend to evolve or tweak your disease.  Want it to spread faster in country?  Make people start sneezing or develop a contagious rash.  Want to get the disease to spread to another country?  Maybe make it airborne or infect livestock.  Your dark passenger will quickly take over as you’ll strategically try to find ways to kill humanity as fast as possible.

There are really only two conflicts in the game to note.  If you make your disease too deadly, the world will take notice and dedicate resources to the cure.  Typically your best move is to quietly infect the entire world with a contagious but harmless plague before evolving it to become an efficient killing machine.  Additionally you have to be careful not to kill all of the carriers of your plague before you have a chance to infect everyone.  We ended many games staring in vain at Greenland which remained disease free while the rest of the world crumbled.

Expect to spend 5-10 hours tops playing this game though as while there are a handful of additional diseases to unlock and powerups you can play with, the experience is largely the same each time.  It’s fun, but it won’t draw you back except to show the game off to someone else.  Regardless, if you’re looking for a casual and compelling distraction while traveling over the holidays, Plague inc. is a safe bet.  Just be warned, it will make you even more paranoid about that person that sneezes next to you at the crowded airport.

Here's the score:

Gameplay: 80

Very simplistic but enjoyable mainly because it is so dark to watch the world end. Having never played Pandemic 2, this felt novel and original to us.

Graphics: 70

This is a great example of a one screen game that works but we have to admit it’s extremely limited graphically. Thankfully it’s got a decent score behind the experience because otherwise it can get boring to simply stare at a map for too long.

Replayability: 60

Once you figure out how to win with each type of disease there isn’t much of a reason to come back besides some unlockable powerups for your disease. There are some DLC options out there but we’re only looking at what comes with the initial purchase.

Overall: 70

Considering this game was developed by one guy and provides an enormously satisfying distraction for travelers, we’d consider this a good score.  It’s trying to be the next Destiny, but if you’re growing tired of playing Plants vs. Zombies nonstop while on your next plane ride, consider picking up Plague Inc.

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