Destroying the human race one sneeze at a time.
Plague Inc. is one of the creepiest games we've played, and it has nothing to do with monsters or aliens. The goal, you see, is to spread an infection throughout the world and destroy the human race. What's especially unnerving about this, a tiny detail that cements this title's impact, is the news ticker that updates throughout the pandemic. Eventually, the news stops coming, but not for lack of information, oh no. It stops because everyone's dead. That moment catapulted a harmless experience (which it totally is) into something that made us question our own mortality. Suffice to say, we haven't stopped washing our hands since.
What's surprising is the amount of thought the developers at Ndemic Creations have put into this title and the resulting depth. You select from 10 disease types (bacteria, virus, fungus) and from there, select which country you want to infect, taking certain factors into account. Initially, we chose bacteria, and patient zero was located in Brazil, a hot country where the potential plague could spread. The screen displays a map of Earth, and all you see are boats and planes going back and forth, unknowingly transporting the infected to different locations.
From there, it spread like proverbial wildfire. Countries closed their borders, airports were shut down, bodies were burned and governments collapsed. At the same time, richer countries began researching the cure while making significant progress, forcing us to spend DNA points acquired during play to evolve the disease, and this is where Ndemic poured lots of creativity. Will it spread via rat or mosquito? Can it survive in the water supply? What about the symptoms? Does it start as a cough that transitions into insomnia and vomiting? There are research trees, and you'll need to think before making selections, as these will impact the entire infection process. Sometimes, you'll need to spend those points at will. Other times, the plague will mutate on its own.
Even the chosen difficulty (of three) factors into the ease of transmission. Go the easy route, and doctors don't work around the clock and idiots willingly hug sick folks. Ratchet that up to normal and/or hard, and everything changes. All of a sudden, everyone washes their hands and infected are left to rot, forcing you to get a bit craftier.
How you interpret Plague Inc., meanwhile, is entirely up to you. Do you play as the disease itself, or as a terrorist hell bent on mankind's annihilation? We prefer the former, since "winning" involves killing everyone; there's literally no one left on the planet. As for the downside, there's little to do after beating the game. OK, so humans are extinct. Now what? Play again to unlock the parasite? I'm not sure if the game has that kind of longevity.
At the same time, there's no denying Plague Inc.'s high-level of quality (after beating the game, you receive graphs tracking the infection) and message, that being to carry anti-biotic solution with you at all times. From where we stand, it's a smartly designed and at times uncomfortable video game that's definitely worth $0.99. If anything, it'll make you think twice about rubbing your eyes after touching a doorknob.
What's Hot: Ten unique disease types, mutating to delay a cure, watching humans go extinct before your eyes, serves as a decent geography tool.
What's Not: Questionable long-term appeal.