A matter of life and death. Mostly death…
One of the main allures of videogames is their ability to transport you to other worlds and to become a different character: a space marine, fighter pilot, an angry bird… or, in this case, a malevolent god. Because, unlike other medical simulations, Bio Inc. gives you the power to take an average, healthy human being and infect them with disease, ailments, maladies, bad genes and ill fortune. And, if there’s the merest hint of survival, you can sabotage their health care. RIP, random anonymous person, we knew you oh so briefly.
The game is split into two sections: the main screen is where you collect bacteria and viruses, which earn you Bio Points. The body is divided into seven regions (Circulatory, Respiratory, Renal, Skeletal and so on), and when one lights up, you have to tap the menu, and then tap the body where the microbe or virus lies. As time passes so you simply tap away, picking up Bio Points.
Once you’ve accumulated a few, you can hit the Immune Shield icon which transports you to the Bio Points section, where you wreak havoc on your victims’ lives. There are three areas in which to spend your Bio Points: Diseases, Risk Factors and Recovery. Diseases are pretty self-explanatory; you can inflict all manner of illnesses on the seven different bodily regions, plus the patient’s immune system. Each one has a ‘skill tree’ where the more dangerous ailments are only unlocked by ‘evolving’ options elsewhere. For instance, you can’t give your patient lung cancer without making them a smoker first.
Risk Factors are where you can change the person’s underlying character traits such as giving them an addiction to junk food, a sedentary lifestyle or alcoholism, as well as old age, poor genes and pure bad luck.
Finally, the Recovery section is where you influence the patient’s ability to get well – like a fear of going to the doctor, substandard medical care, a doctors’ strike and so on.
Now I am become death
Your strategy, then, is to carefully choose the right selection of conditions to help reduce all of the seven bodily functions from 100% to zero. At first you’ll need to set the right circumstances, like a poor diet and lack of exercise, and then hit them with a serious complaint – like bronchitis, which you can then escalate to emphysema and pneumothorax (a collapsed lung).
The tricky thing with Bio Inc. is that it’s difficult to formulate any real strategy. It all feels rather arbitrary and you’re not quite sure what the result of your actions will be. For example, we reduced one patient’s immune system to zero only for him to somehow fight off the flu – even when his placebo medications were poisonous!
One serious issue with the game is that the collection of Bio Points is actually pretty dull. There’s no skill involved and it soon becomes a necessary chore. Dividing up the points in the skill trees is more entertaining, but it all just feels rather random and unbalanced; completing a level on ‘Severe’ mode seems almost impossible.
And at the end of a game, it’s nonsensical for a so-called ‘simulator’ to have a patient that has lung cancer, pneumonia, brittle bones, a failed renal system and an advanced degenerative musculature disease, who – just because the recovery counter hits 100% – suddenly survives to go on and have a fit and healthy life. It also takes quite a while to play each level, and after failing to euthanize a character once or twice, the desire to replay soon dwindles.
So while Bio Inc. is a really interesting concept, beautifully executed, the gameplay doesn’t quite fulfil the initial promise. It’s definitely worth experiencing, though, and the developers are promising updates to keep the game fresh, so maybe it’ll come into its own in due course.
Price: $1.99 / £1.49
Size: 57.0 MB
Developer: Drygin Studios
- Very nicely put together
- Darkly unconventional
- Addictive – for a while
- Strategy aspect is a bit vague
- Collecting Bio Points not a thrill
- Inconsistent and unbalanced