Pandemics: Deadly and… Entertaining

October 4, 2012/0/0
Home / Blog / Reviews / Pandemics: Deadly and… Entertaining

I got an ipad this year and one of the first things I did was start searching for science and medicine themed games.

The main game that seems to be making waves is a game called Plague Inc., by Ndemic Creations, that was inspired by Pandemic 2.5., by Dark Realm Studios. And I would be surprised if the creator of Pandemic 2.5 was unaware of the cooperative board game Pandemic from several years back, by ZMAN games. The board game is the best of the three, but they all deserve mention.

In the board game Pandemic, players take on the role of the good guys and have to work together to defeat four different infectious diseases that are ravaging the globe. This is easily one of the best science-themed games ever created. The design is very clever, and the switcheroo of putting players in the position of cooperating instead of competing is a refreshing change which also makes the game more inviting: nobody is THE loser, and you don’t have to be mean to win. The game is rigged against humanity, and only through communicating well and making efficient strategic choices can you survive and beat the diseases. There are also different difficulty levels and expansions. It won many awards, deservedly so, most notably the 2009 Origin Awards Board Game of the Year.

Shortly after the board game Pandemic came out, a simple online game called Pandemic and Pandemic 2 came to browsers, unrelated to the board game. This year, an improved version called Pandemic 2.5 came out for phones and tablets, as did a new competitor, Plague, Inc., which was almost the exact same game, except with better graphics and features. Both games sold very well on the iTunes store, and though most internet commenters I read accused Plague Inc., of being a bit of a rip off, they also found it to be a superior game.

In these two games you play by yourself in the role of plague-spreader. Your goal: wipe out humanity. You get points to spend on upgrading your disease’s infectivity, and lethality. (Plague Inc. also includes “severity.”) You have to be patient as the spread of the disease follows a gradual pace, and try and time your lethal mutations just right so you can start killing but still continue to spread. As the world wakes up to your existence, countries take protective measures and scientists research a cure. You usually lose when the world finds a cure, having come tantalizingly close to wiping out humanity.

Plague Inc., and Pandemic 2.5 aren’t exactly “fun,” but they ARE interesting, more along the lines of: “I wonder what will happen if I make this choice.” … “Huh…” “Maybe I should do this next…”

One thing that is sort of reassuring about these games is that is it really really hard to totally wipe out humanity. It’s pretty easy to cause widespread suffering, but a few pockets of humanity usually survive until a cure is found. It highlights the challenge of being an infectious disease: if you thrive by making your host extinct, you will become extinct too. I have yet to beat the game (Damn you, Madagascar!!!) but found it to be an excellent way to pass time on an airplane.

The games have sold well on the app store. Glad to know that people out there are crazy for games about disease… maybe they will come clamoring for Healing Blade 3.0, too, when that’s ready. (You can blame me for that… we’re working on making it super awesome!)

Speaking of games about science, if you haven’t played Foldit or Phylo yet (there are two games called Phylo, totally different, both very cool) I suggest those as well. I haven’t unwrapped my copy of Dominant Species yet – try boardgamegeek for a review. And although it’s not really science, Osmos “feels” like something that might happen at the molecular level, and is a great peaceful and beautiful game for phones and tablets that soothes the nerves and stimulates the mind.

Anyone else have any science-themed games they’d recommend?

-Blak Lotus