Forget Gears of War. Forget Madworld (seriously, let’s). They can’t hold a bloody stump to the horror ““ the inhuman destruction ““ of the most violent video game the world has ever seen.
I’m talking about Pandemic II, a free Flash game by Dark Realm Studios*. In this game, you aren’t just some lone maniac with a chainsaw. You play as an almighty spirit ““ God, the Devil, Nature; this game is non-denominational. Whoever you are, you’ve had about enough of humanity, with its littering and its sass-back. It’s time to bring the apocalypse, and you’re going to do it by designing the perfect disease. The goal is simple: wipe-out human life on Earth. That’s right ““ to win this game, you need a kill count of 6.7 billion. Take that, Splinter Cell.
On the start screen, you pick a name for your pestilence and choose whether it will be a bacterium, virus, or parasite. Each disease class has pros and cons in terms of lethality, infectiousness, and visibility. The strategy in the game consists of balancing these features. Infection meter too high? Governments will notice, and close borders or start on a vaccine. Not quite deadly enough? Populations can escape your clutches by developing immunity. The main screen shows a world map, which gradually turns from green to red as you spread your tide of death. During gameplay you’ll earn “evolution points” which are used to unlock new disease symptoms and traits. Customize with sneezing, coughing, and skin ulcers ““ all the way up to hemorrhage, pleurisy, and dementia. Then sit back and watch your creation evolve from baby bug into world killer.
It’s not all sunshine and omnicide, however. There are a couple design features which I hope Dark Realm address if they ever make Pandemic III: God of Pus**. Even in quick play mode, this game takes way longer than the average browser game ““ 1″“3 hours, depending on your strategic approach. Give yourself plenty of time to annihilate every last mortal.
Then there’s Madagascar. This tropical island nation will drive you bananas if you don’t get it infected at the very start of the game. There’s only one means of ingress, the Port, and the conservative Madagascan government will shut it down at the first case of the sniffles. Since even one country staying disease-free makes it impossible to win the game, you’ll have to start over from scratch. It’s a little annoying, but a small price to pay to obliterate the human race.
On balance, Pandemic II is a nice entry-point into the sim/strategy genre, with a killer premise: eradicate human life on this planet. It’s sick, morbid, terrifying ““ and highly recommended.
* Pandemic II came out July 2008, the sequel/improved version of 2007’s Pandemic.
**For clarification, this game was followed by Pandemic: American Swine, released Summer 2009 in the midst of the swine flu scare. Making it highly topical, unlike this review.