Better Than Cheap: Pandemic 2

(A feature in which I highlight free PC games.  There are many high-quality and innovative games out there that cost nothing, but are sadly restricted to their niche.  I think they’re worth your time.)

The role of online Flash games has been mostly supplanted by mobile gaming. The addictive charms of a simple, but well-made and well-presented game are readily apparent if you’re looking to while away a couple of minutes at the bus stop, but not so much if you’re sitting at a computer in your flat with housework to do. For example, Crush the Castle was a fun momentum-based puzzle game that was somewhat popular online in the summer of 2009 – I remember Craig and I spending most of a night in Edinburgh trying to complete it. At the end of that year, Rovio Entertainment released an almost-identical game called ‘Angry Birds’ for the iPhone. Which one did all your friends play?

What I’m getting at is that despite the immense number and variety of online flash games, they never really took off in the same way phone ones did, and now that mobile gaming dominates a huge section of the industry, they’re unlikely to.

You won’t find me complaining, though. While they’re good for short bursts, flash games tend to be quickly forgotten and just as easily dismissed. There must be tens of thousands of them out there, but there’s not a lot of upward mobility in the medium – a game’s popularity is very much fleeting.

A notable exception, however, is Pandemic 2. I’m not exactly sure how this game became as popular as it is, but at any one time it’s likely that someone on a gaming forum is complaining about it. Good-naturedly.

 

 

A basic management-type game, Pandemic 2 gives you limited control over the spread of a virus. As more people become infected, you are awarded evolution points, which you can spend in order to evolve viral traits that affect how your virus spreads further. For example, you can allow airborne transmission for 7 points, or heat resistance for 4. When governments start to notice the severity of the situation, they’ll start closing borders, airports and harbours, effectively shutting down infection paths. Your goal is to balance the visibility of your disease with how contagious you want it to be – too many symptoms and the governments will catch on and take measures, too few and your disease will never make it out of Australia.

 

 

Technically speaking, the goal of the game is to infect and kill everyone on the planet. However, since this is highly unlikely, the game becomes more about discovery: what works, what doesn’t. Pandemic 2’s major strength is its atmosphere, which is something that flash games are godawful at creating, because it’s hard to get people involved in your world when there’s a huge ad at the top of the page for FREE ONLINE GAMES. However, with regular news updates and little airplanes going back and forth, you get a real sense that there’s a world waiting to be infected. The music’s ace, too – I have no idea why it makes me think of an apocalyptic disease outbreak, but it totally does.

 

 

Pandemic 2 is available online at crazymonkeygames.com. There’s probably a good clone in the app store, but you’d probably have to pay for it.

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