Something for the weekend: Pandemic 2

This week Iain Simons reviews one game that should appeal to those with a taste for the morbid...

For those who enjoy strategic simulation games but dislike the company of others, this week we present Pandemic 2 for your delight and amusement. The sequel to Pandemic (who would have thought global devastation could be developed into a franchise…?) this challenges you to create the ultimate disease, infecting and killing the population of Earth. It’s like SimCity for people that hate other people.

Whilst having a simple interface, I’d recommend a watch of the tutorial video to be introduced to the basic concepts. It’s a resource management/ strategy game, where the assets you are juggling are the qualities of your disease. Once you’ve made the decision of what class of infection you are going to create (virus, parasite or bacteria) the core game begins.

Your task is to guide the development of your disease into being the most infectious, lethal strain possible - whilst keeping its visibility to humans and resistance to their vaccines at a maximum. By carefully managing symptoms, transmission methods and resistances, one slowly spreads death throughout the planet. But as borders close and governments order the mass burning of corpses, your function becomes frustratingly spectatorial. It’s morbid fun, but doesn’t offer quite enough feedback in its interface for you to really feel in control of the action. This has no pretensions to being educational, and nor should it, but a little more detail would prove satisfying.

With just functional graphics and an irritating, looping soundtrack (although it can be muted) Pandemic 2 is a fairly lightweight strategy affair. A nice concept needing a rather more finesse, this won’t tax any simulation aficionados but rather provide a gentle diversion, allowing you to while away some time wreaking death upon your fellow man. And what else are Fridays for?

Iain Simons writes, talks and tweets about videogames and technology. His new book, Play Britannia, is to be published in 2009. He is the director of the GameCity festival at Nottingham Trent University.
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Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.