Mobile Infamy Review: Plague, Inc

Mobile Infamy Reviews cover mobile and handheld games.  For mobile, MI only cover Android games, as my distrust of all things Apple-related is prolific and well documented.  

Plague, Inc.

Image from Google Play

Developer:  Ndemic Creations
Business Model: Free / InApp Purchases for $2.99
Google Play: Plague, Inc
iTunes: Plague, Inc
Rating: 2.75 out of 3 Stars
Pretty Awesome 

Plague Inc. is a game that scares the hell out of me…in a good way.  It’s not meant to be a horror game, but the topic of the game, trying to design a plague to wipe out the human race, tends to fit the “Scare me shitless” mold pretty well.  The game is addictive, well designed, and a ton of fun to play.  The music is a bit repetitive, and their aren’t many graphics.


The game is one of the few original games to appear on the mobile scene.  Billed as a strategy game and a simulation game, Plague Inc. puts in you control of a new pathogen.  The goal of the game is to evolve your disease to wipe out the human race.  Through a combination of choosing how your disease is transmitted, symptoms, and abilities, like cold resistance, of the disease, you pick a country to infect, and Patient Zero pops into being.  As you infect more people, you earn DNA points which you use to evolve the 3 basic traits of your disease mentioned above.  The trick is not to become too deadly too fast, or the people the world will develop a cure to your disease, and you lose the game.


The game is brilliantly designed.  It’s inventive, well-thought out, and the strategy is deep.  The game features several different modes, from “Casual” to “Brutal” which are essentially your different skill levels.  Upon picking your skill level, you are then prompted to pick a plague type, which have their own pros and cons.  These function as levels within the game — you have to successful kill off the human race using each plague time, before you can advance on to the other plague types.  You start with only bacteria to chose from, and once you beat the bacteria scenario, you can then move on to virus, and so on and so on.  Additionally, there 4 other types that have not yet been released on the Android version, claiming “Coming in Future Mutations.”  
I should note that you can purchase access to all the levels at once by buying the “Full Game” via In App purchases for $2.99.  This also unlocks 3 cheat codes for the game.  
The premise is the game is deceptive simple, and creepily realistic.  Evolve your disease to kill the human race.  The strategy comes in with the fact that at the start, your disease is more akin to the common cold.  As you evolve some symptoms, other more fatal options open up.  But if you go too big too fast, the world realizes you for what you are, pools their resources and develops the cure.  
The game takes into account transition across national boundaries, and countries can shut their borders, carriers take the disease to other nations via plane or train (indicated by a red plan flying from one country to another).  As you play and grow more virulent, countries will eventually become so over-run that the government collapses, and the country is essentially defunct.  This is important in the cure development — countries will work together to develop a cure, and so those countries that are contributing most to your cure you probably want to develop your disease to specifically target that area.  
There’s a ticker at the top of the world screen that shows Top News from around the globe, and that’s a good barometer as to how seriously the world takes your disease.  When you start, there’s lots of nonsensical stories, but as you build, your disease starts to dominate the news more and more.  It’s a good indication of how well you are doing in the game.  
I don’t want to give too much away, but the game is deep and well designed, and a ton of fun to play.  


There are remarkably few cons for this game.  The music is a bit repetitive and annoying.  I turned it off after about 4 minutes.  And there aren’t very many graphics in the game.  I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing — it’s a strategy game about a disease — not too much to show.  But I think that maybe it could have benefited from a few more graphics and animations than what it had.  I think the creepiness factor could have been increased 10 fold with a few well placed disease ridden images.  That’s just me though, and like I said, this is a very minor gripe.  

Final Thoughts

In a genre of gaming filled primarily with thinly-veiled money grabs, and clones of successful games (and money grabs), Plague, Inc is a welcome breath of fresh air. The game-play is familiar enough to be easy to play, but still hard to master.  Everyone from your Mom to your CoD playing little brother will find something to like about this game.  I know I did.  Then I immediately washed my hands and went to find my face-mask.  
Google Play: Plague, Inc
iTunes: Plague, Inc

Why Portable Gaming is Still Relevant

If you check out IndustryGamers, there’s an article over there I read, and then commented on.  And the comment morphed into this huge wall’o’text so I thought that the blog might be a better medium for it than the comments on someone else’s blog.  Who knew taking credit for my own stuff was a good idea, eh?  Anyway, moving on …

To start, I think there’s waaaaay too much conjecture in this article.  True, Steve Peterson’s comparing a brand new product with a product that’s not released yet, but that begs the question – was this really the best time for this article?  I think the amount of conjecture and conjecture built on conjecture throughout the piece, suggests that this is probably pre-mature. 

As much as I dislike SCEA, the Vita has potential.  Right now, the social/mobile games market is horribly inflated with way way way more crap than anything good (a fact which people seem to be amazing at ignoring …), eventually the market will collapse into something more reasonable and sustainable.  trying to make long term conjecture about the well being of a device who’s life is probably upwards of 4-5 years in a market as dynamic and changing as gaming is a little bit foolhardy.  Then, going beyond that and comparing it to the drastically iterative tablet market, an emerging genre of mobile/social gaming with vast amounts of shovelware and poorly designed games designed for vastly different demographic is downright silly. 

This is a repeated problem – people continually make the comparison between mobile games found on tablets/cellphones with dedicated gaming devices.  But there really can’t be a true apples-to-apples comparison here for a few reasons.  A dedicated device will always be able to do things that a general device can’t — hence the fact it’s a dedicated device.  While not exclusively, within gaming circles this often takes the form of IP dedicated to specific platforms.  With this comes consumer expectation that a certain IP “feels” a certain way and changing platforms often monkeys with this “feeling.”  For example, moving a game like Uncharted from Playstation Vita to a cell phone would drastically change the “feel” and “play” of the game — and I would guess to the detriment. 

I think the other thing you have to consider is target demographic, and the kinds of games that you find in those demographics, and what kinds of games those demographics want.  For mobile games (those on cell phones/tablets), games are meant to fill small chunks of time, less than 15min.  With a game designed to only fill minute chunks of time before moving on to something else, it’s hard to get any real depth of game-play.  A mobile game player doesn’t have time to master complicated game play.  So all the game play is simple, infantile even.  Not to say this will always be the case, but it is right now. 

Portable games (like Vita, 3DS) fill a different market demographic.  While still not with the depth of experience as a full-fledged dedicated system or a PC, still provides more of deep gaming experience than mobile games.  These games are meant to played in longer stretches (I have over 100 hours logged in Pokemon White).  They are designed to be played for longer sessions that mobile games, which opens up for different game play experiences than what’s available on the mobile platform.  Gamers who pick up a portable gaming device do so because they want more depth of game than what the mobile platform offers — in short, the portable platform fills a need for gaming on the go, but with more depth than what the mobile platform currently offers. 

Now, there are a set of users for whom I can’t even guess a number that will not buy a portable gaming device because of the mobile gaming market.  But as I’ve tried to point out above, my thought is that number is going to be small–maybe not insignificant, but small nonetheless because the devices fill different needs within the gaming space.

This is, of course, not to say that this paradigm is set in stone – it’s still shifting.  As I mentioned in the beginning, mobile gaming is still a very inflated market, like the dotcom boom before it.  Hopefully soon the  market will collapse back to reasonable levels and more people will start doing better, more interesting things with the mobile space and be able to add that depth of gaming (which is challenging to define, I’m discovering).  One can only hope — until then, I think portable gaming still has a place in the gaming world, and one that is not going to be quickly subsumed by mobile gaming.