I enjoyed Plague Inc., as did Liesl; nice concept (play a disease trying to exterminate the world), pleasant enough to figure out the underlying systems (which is good, since there’s not much else going on), and the different disease types are a good mechanic to let the designers vary the systems. I put several hours into it, a fact about which I have no complaints.
So, of course, I’m going to point out ways in which the game is amateurish. None of these make it a bad game, they’re just ways in which the game feels different from the sorts of console games I usually play.
- The map is just barely larger than the iPad screen: so you scroll around, but that scrolling is pointless.
- Except the scrolling is necessary: the map takes up the entire screen, so some parts of the map are under control objects. (E.g. the pause button.) So I started every game by scrolling to the side a bit so that, if I had to click on an event in Russia, I’d be able to do so.
- The control objects that interfere with interactions with game events are all at the top of the screen. So why not just make the map start half an inch down? Especially because the bottom inch of the map is taken up by the area surrounding the Antarctic, so it doesn’t actually have any countries to click on.
- The map is a real picture of the earth, with only the faintest of lines drawn on it to separate countries. Or rather, to separate groups of countries, because they (sensibly) frequently combined adjacent small countries. The faintness of these lines makes it very hard to tell how many countries there are in a region, or to reliably click on all of those countries to see which are infected.
- You have to click on events to gather DNA. Well, you don’t have to, but you won’t get as much DNA as you don’t. So they’re basically doobers, about which I have mixed feelings: they give you something to do, but they add no interesting decisions to the game, and occasionally you miss them if you turn up the speed of the game.
- I thought I missed them even more often than that, because it wasn’t clear to me if the doober expiration time paused while a popup was on screen. (And popups are typically triggered by events that also lead to doobers.) I think that, actually, the expiration time does pause in that situation, but clicks on doobers while a popup is on screen still register, it’s just that the doober doesn’t disappear until you’ve closed the popup. The result is that I would close the popup, see a doober disappear, and not know if I’d gotten it or not.
- There are seven (six? I don’t have the game open as I’m typing this) disease types available. By far the hardest is the third disease type (Fungus), and the second type is easier than the first; if I were a cynical type, I would think that unusual difficulty curve was a ploy to get people to pay for unlocking all the disease types (which I would actually be okay with, the price is entirely reasonable), but I think it’s more likely that they just didn’t spend much time worrying about balance that way.
- The different disease types don’t, unfortunately, vary the strategy in particularly interesting ways: I ended up adopting the same basic strategy on all of them, with only minor variants.
Don’t get me wrong: I really did enjoy playing the game, I’m quite happy to have bought it. The above flaws are real, I think, but they’re all minor.
This post has not been revised since publication.