PLAGUE INC.

What’s the difference between plagiarism and a tribute to a game? Plague Inc. is a game that was recently released in the iOS store, much to the discontent of some people. Why? Because it is nothing but a rip off from an older flash game, Pandemic 2. However, people might have been too quick to judge… or not.

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 The concept is simple: create and improve a disease, with one goal in mind: Wipe out humanity from the face of earth. By infecting more people, you get “DNA” points which you can then use to purchase new symptoms, transmissions and abilities. The symptoms allow your disease to become deadly, whilst the latter help your disease infect new people.

 Although it adds new features such as DNA “bubbles” that appear on the map every once in a while (giving you the option to pop them for extra point), more types of diseases, a “Cure” meter, different difficulties and the ability to choose the country to start in (which should always be Madagascar) the game feels exactly like Pandemic. With no real innovation in terms of gameplay, it really makes the purchase questionable.

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 The different types of diseases. Pandemic only had three, so this is a plus.

 One thing that goes in favor of this game is that it gives you the ability to play mobile, and since Pandemic is a Flash game you can’t really play it outside of home or work.

Also, while playing the game you really do realize that the developers of Pandemic should just sue them. No real effort was made into changing the game, it seriously is just an illegal port. Sure, renaming the Evolution points into DNA points is a great difference, you geniuses.

The real question is: Should you buy this? No, you shouldn’t. Although it’s $0.99, a very reasonable price, you could just go play Pandemic 2 for free on your computer. And even the original is not that great of a game. There is simply too much waiting around, even with the speeding up function. And while Plague Inc. tries to fix this by introducing these bubbles, the controls are so clunky that it’s really hard to burst them in time. Long story short, save yourself $0.99 and spend it in something else.

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THE FUTURE OF INDIE GAME DEVELOPMENT WITH JONATHAN LAVIGNE

In a society suffocated by franchise and corporate hegemony, the gaming world has become swamped in sequels and re-releases, all looking to control the largest market share. However, there is still a single lantern shining within its murky depths, as independent developers have begun to regain a foothold across the console spectrum.

I spoke with ex-Ubisoft Game Designer and co-founder of Montréal-based Tribute Games, Jonathan Lavigne, to catch a glimpse into the future and the workings of Indie game development.

Where do you see Indie game development in the future, as opposed to the bigger franchises and established companies?

Indie game development is getting more and more support. There are competitions like the IGF or Dream Build Play, portals like Indievania to sell your games, and first party companies and publishers are being increasingly more opened to indie developers (like Microsoft with XBLIG, Steam with its wide selection of indie titles, and Sony with the recent release of the Playstation Suite).

That being said, indie game development won’t overthrow big traditional game franchises and larger companies. It has its own niche market and it’ll soon (if not already) generate enough money to allow passionate developers to be able to make games on their own rather than be forced to work for a big studio.

 Ninja Senki, Lavigne’s highly praised 2010 action platformer, was heavily influenced by classic NES formats, such as Mega Man or Metroid. Click the above image to download the game for free!

Is there an increasing audience for this market of games – and if so, is there enough to actually support a company?

– I think that game journalists reflect the increasing interest of gamers for indie development, and they’ve been really supportive and willing to talk about them in the last few years. So yeah, there is definitely a market and it potentially can be enough to support a company – however, a lot of people are still unaware that independent game development exists, so there’s still work to do to promote indies.

Why  do you think so many recent Indie titles been so heavily based upon nostalgia in terms of graphics and style?

– A lot of indie developers are in their late or early twenties, so they want to share the love they have for the games they grew up with. Also, with actual technology and the development tools available, it’s more convenient for small teams to work with 2d graphics and 8-bit sounds and music rather than go full 3d HD and have to hire an orchestra.

Are the older, classic genres destined to resurface over modern game types?

– Maybe not, but there are definitely many genres that were simply lost in translation from 2d to 3d back in the 90s. I believe that a lot of new ideas can come up from old 8-bit or 16-bit generation games. Indie developers are already making it happen and it’ll keep going for sure.

Jonathan Lavigne’s work can be found at Tribute games, Or at PIXELTAO, his personal blog.

Tribute Games’ Wizorb review here.

WIZORB

Tribute Games’ debut release is a very nostalgic mix of 16 bit adventure with block breaking at heart, but those who are looking for a more prominent RPG element will be disappointed – Wizorb encompasses the style and atmosphere, but doesn’t venture much further than that.

Packed full of the paddle game classics, there are a variety of traditional power ups for you to unlock as you progress through each of its five, individually themed worlds, using keys to access bonus areas and shops in-game. Your score becomes secondary in Wizorb, however, instead focusing a lot more on collecting coins, which can be spent on paddle upgrades and saving the people of Gorudo from an evil curse.

What really sets Wizorb apart from the Arkanoid clones is the injection of ‘magic’, allowing you to use skills such as teleport, fireball and wind to manipulate each level to your advantage. You have a limited amount of power, but it can be refilled by collecting red potions or in slow regeneration.

My main criticism of this game would lie in its difficulty – or lack thereof. With 12 stages to every world, it felt more time consuming than challenging and I quickly got into a routine where I was finishing levels purely to get back into the World Map. Power ups, such as sticky paddle, made each stage increasingly mundane as it became more a matter of catch and aim. However, this is not so much a fault in Wizorb, but of the genre itself, and can be easily rectified by self-imposing your own limits and restrictions – I found that playing on Hard difficulty and refusing all paddle upgrades created an entirely new experience and definitely made it a lot more intense in terms of gameplay.

I found myself pleasantly surprised to find that this game actually does have a lot of replayability value, with 20 varying achievements littered throughout. Furthermore, I found myself revisiting past levels multiple times in order to build up gold and my score, despite there being absolutely no requirement too – obtaining the amulet was certainly a rewarding experience, especially so in its use ingame.

Overall, this is a very fun and satisfying puzzle game, but don’t expect much more out of it – the RPG elements are essentially to add atmosphere and style, coating it in a classic 16 bit finish. If you’re looking to kill boredom without emptying your wallet, then I highly recommend this game. Either way, Tribute Games have definitely set themselves up as an exciting new developer with a lot of potential for the future.

Buy it from the website here

Get it on Steam here

Tribute Games