Pandemic: American Swine


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Rating: 3.7/5 (119 votes)
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DoraPandemic: American SwineThe Pandemic games have had a few years now to condition us into lean, mean, virus makin' machines, and frankly, we liked it. While the original struggled with its own concepts, the sequel was a twisted, clever little venture that appealed to our sadistic sides. Bacteria? Martial law? Rodent-borne parasites? Awwwwww yeah. Not only did it mean a lot of us spent time getting looked at funny when people realised what we were doing, it also made Madagascar the target of a lot of unwarranted gamer bitterness. So now that we're all appropriately diseased little deviants, it seems a lot to ask from Dark Realm Studios that we should trade in our virii for vaccines and fight the good fight in their newest strategy game, Pandemic: American Swine.

That's right. Instead of choosing boils or blackouts, you'll be managing the media, the borders, the government, and more in your attempt to both stop the spread of disease and stamp it out. While handing out breathing masks doesn't exactly inspire one to maniacal cackling the same way calling down a plague of psychosis on the long-suffering populace does, it's still surprisingly fun.

The game is played out on a large map of the United States, and each state requires your attention. While some are limited to handing out masks and increasing military presence, others have air ports, harbors, and more. You can click on each icon to bring up the city or state's current status, along with a list of actions to take, and the cost attached to each one. The upside to these is that they bring in more money, which is crucial to combatting the flu. The downside is that open ports of entry means a greater chance of more infected travelers to deal with. It's a lot to deal with if you've never played before, but fortunately the sickness spreads slowly enough for you to learn the ropes and establish yourself. A little. Sort of. Maybe.

One of the key elements to winning the game is your relationship with the media, which is doing its best to whip the American people into a frothy lather of panic. Each time they report on an event, it pops up as an icon on the left side of the screen for you to click on. You'll notice that as the flu spreads, so does the panic in the country, indicated by the letters slowly turning red in the word at the top-right of the play window. If you want to keep the public calm, you'll have to work hard on not only giving the media positive things to report on ("President Dora makes sock puppet for child! Nation rejoices!"), but working to keep the virus from spreading until you have a vaccine ready. And even then, you've still got your work cut out for you, as deploying the vaccine takes time and a lot of money.

So what does all this mean for the series and its fans? Well, that depends on you. For a lot of us, what made Pandemic fun was the darkly humorous spectacle of it all, and the transition to a more outright strategic game may be a tough one to take if that isn't your bag.

Pandemic: American SwineAnalysis: My first impression of the game was that it was going to be obscenely easy. After all, I had studied the habits of my old nemesis Madagascar. I'd simply shut down everything, hand out some masks, then kick back and make prank phone calls to Alaska until it burned itself out. So you can imagine my surprise when this brilliant strategy shortly saw terrible things happening in Seattle, my budget in the toilet, and the media shrieking for my head on a platter while the good people did their best impersonation of chickens in an earthquake. Huh, I thought, as the mortality rate begun to rise into the millions, that's probably not a good thing.

But while a good amount of effort has gone into making the game a balancing act, it ultimately comes down to how much money you have to throw around. Even when your vaccine has finally been researched, you're going to need a ridiculous amount of cash to be able to spread it around, which often comes down to keeping borders open whether you want to or not. I can't imagine how that tourist campaign even works. We've got history, sno-cones, and death by the millions! Bring the kiddies! And since cash only flows into your budget at the end of each day, you're going to spend a lot of time twiddling your thumbs, waiting for the clock to roll around.

Ultimately, however, American Swine wins out against the originals by feeling much more like something that requires effort and strategy than it does like a personal misery-making device. The better you get at managing all your states, the more it feels like you're actually accomplishing something. Feel the game is too easy? Try the difficulty on hard. And have a few nuclear strikes ready.

Pandemic 2 allowed you to speed up or slow down time, which was perfect for those of us with ants in our pants for the next stage of gameplay. After all, those pustules weren't going to grow themselves. By contrast, American Swine moves at its own pace, advancing a day at a time. In the beginning, you might be a little overwhelmed by the sheer amount of territory you're responsible for and long for a slower speed. Later on, when you're more comfortable with the controls and are sitting on a nice, relatively stable government, the ability to click forward a day or two to advance things would have been nice.

So one wonders. Why swine flu? Attempt at tongue-in-cheek satire, or an effort to make the game topical? As it stands, the game could have been named anything else and still been functional. I guess Pandemic: Vaccination Hero didn't have the same ring to it. All in all, American Swine is a good game, if a departure from what made its predecessors so fun. Fans of the series may be disappointed at the lack of boils and sores, but give it a chance and you'll find a surprisingly tricky game of germ warfare at your fingertips.

Play Pandemic: American Swine

45 Comments

This is a tricky one.

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I found it very straightforward. Masks until vaccine made, then vaccinate. All I had to do was sit there and wait. And wait. And it wasn't fun at all!
Well, I admit that I only played Normal mode, BUT the fact of the matter is that once you're out of money, it doesn't matter what difficulty you are on, you still have to wait for the next day. Therefore, playing at a harder difficulty, I think, would not make the game more fun for me.

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JNinjaz Author Profile Page July 27, 2009 9:04 PM

What stinks is I get freaked out over a brown state, then i look and see that like 1 person is healthy, the rest are infected, dead, or immune. I just forget the country, let the infected die, and it goes back to green :)

This game is does have a lot of waiting, and you really can't get your money above a certain ammount because of costs you cant get rid of.

Not my favorite, and I would have rather played as Madagascar :P

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JNinjaz Author Profile Page July 27, 2009 9:06 PM

Its funny how nuking cities full of people has no affect on the panic.

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Vebyast Author Profile Page July 27, 2009 9:11 PM

Not as fun as the previous games, in my opinion. As said before, it comes down to how much money you have. Since you only ever have enough money for three or four vaccination campaigns at a time, the game boils down to "where do I vaccinate today" and "doo de doo de doo, next tick please".

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What I've found easiest to do is

to begin, all ports and borders down, and masks, masks, masks until the vaccine is up. Let the vaccine work its magic on the states with the most borders (that interstates go through). then "quarintine" the outer states like FL or WA and then masks some more until the infected die. thats how i roll, and i generally end up around 17-21 days.

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This game honestly wasn't very much fun. Like what they said, it ultimately just boils down to waiting until the next day so that you have enough money to vaccinate a few more states, and then wait some more. That's it; just waiting for the money to roll in.

It has a really cool concept going though.

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Does anyone know how to get the Operation Iceberg trophy?

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My strategy is similar to yours, JNinjaz,

especially concerning masks, plus if a state was really bad before the vaccine came out I enforced curfews (cheaper than military, and in most cases it seemed to help).

But instead of closing down absolutely everything: I left the Mexico and Canada borders open since the likelihood of being infected by them wasn't worth the decrease in cash flow. Same for the domestic traffic - I left domestic traffic open in all the airports and seaports, and as soon as a state with such a port was receiving the vaccine, I allowed foreign traffic.

After the vaccine comes out, there is a stretch of time when it seems like nothing is helping the numbers go in the right direction, but I never had to nuke a city. If they died out, they died out. Although I do wish they had a similar color-change scheme for infected cities to make them easier to keep track of.

Lastly, the pricey vaccine dispensation will be sapping your funds indefinitely unless you stop them, so just before I got my money each day I checked all states receiving vaccines. If a majority, like 75-90%, of the citizens were vaccinated (or dead) I stopped the vaccine; if there were still a fair number "healthy" or infected I left it going. That way I'd have new money open to either assist another infected state or start vaccinating clean states which were at high risk for infection. Also if a high risk or infected state has a hospital in it, they are already receiving vaccine, so check their stats before doling out the dough for your government-issue vaccine.

My biggest gripe with the game was the aforementioned waiting. I wanted to try the game on other modes after I beat "Normal," but I didn't want to sit there for another hour waiting for the clock to progress so I stopped. A selectable speed would have helped gameplay tremendously, plus a better way to manage budget.

The potential for a cool game is all here, so if a sequel comes out I'll be all over it hoping for gameplay improvements!

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JNinjaz Author Profile Page July 28, 2009 2:24 AM

One thing to note: once someone becomes infected, they can't get any better. So the only difference between infected and dead is that infected people can infect healthy people. If you get it to the point where you have 0 healthy, dont even concern yourself with that country, because there is absolutely nothing you can do (except nuke the cities which is always fun).

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I'm pretty sure the Operation Iceberg trophy is bugged. I had a look at v1.41 of the game with a Flash decompiler (admittedly, a pretty mediocre decompiler with many bugs which I have little experience with, but a decompiler nonetheless!) and I couldn't find any way to trigger the trophy.

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Anonymous July 28, 2009 5:51 AM

Judging from the trophy picture, I'd have assumed "Operation Iceberg" involved:

Nuking the country into non-existence.

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dubaiss July 28, 2009 6:29 AM

It's more fun to be on the other side of the pandemic.

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I got it in 12 days.
the costs of vaccinating a state are pretty uniform, but not their population (and therefore their contribution to victory).
That's quite unrealistic if you ask me, but hey.
So when I could vaccinate, I would treat states in order of healthy population, immediately starting with the biggest: California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois, then on the medium (5-10m) states.
The smaller states with a hospital will slowly immunize their people. But distributing vaccine really helps in California and Texas.
Every day, check the number of healthy people left in the states you are vaccinating. If it has dropped below, say, 2 million, then you're better off stopping the distribution in this state and moving on to a bigger one.

One tactic I tried and which didn't work was to do nothing but spread panic in the first week, in order to amass enough cash to vaccinate many states at once when the vaccine is ready.
but too many people died for me to hope to win.

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It was a nice game to play in the background but really the "days" were WAY too long. Maybe it was that way to overshadow the other flaws in the gameplay that would be more noticeable if it were possible to play the game a couple of times without dedicating a week to waiting.

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Arcysparky Author Profile Page July 28, 2009 3:09 PM

The thing I didn't like about the game was that it failed to give any sense of gravity to the epidemic. I never felt the panic that the people were feeling as the infection took over.

With the original pandemic there was this beautiful sense of power in your attempt to take over the work with your virus, but the same sense of powerlessness against the disease isn't present in the game.

I also think using the US instead of Madagascar was a missed opportunity...

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Anonymous July 28, 2009 3:10 PM

Yeah, the game just isn't exciting enough. I applaud the motive of playing the previous Pandemic games from "the other side," as it were, but really you're just clicking some boxes every minute. I never had either the money or the need to nuke places.

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FhnuZoag July 28, 2009 5:52 PM

Huh, I feel like I've been playing a totally different game from you people. How many people died in your games? I mean, I had always been prioritising saving as many people as possible instead of eliminating the virus/spreading the vaccine fast. Panic stays on a rock bottom value of zero for me.

Instead of immunising New York, my strategy is primarily setting up geographical barriers so that the virus could be contained. Places like New York never see a single infection, because roadblocks and barriers of fully vaccinated states prevent the virus from reaching there. Maybe you should play on hard?

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I played for a while, and had the vaccine deploying in several states. I then got bored, used the neutron bomb on Las Vegas and Los Angeles, told the media to start fear-mongering, and watched as the country destroyed itself. I'm a terrible person.

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NeoTiger Author Profile Page July 29, 2009 8:54 AM

Unfortunately this game is an example of bad game design. This game has too many numbers and hidden mechanics under the hood to appeal to a larger audience. At no time did I ever feel that I was making decisions based on those numbers, the game tried to provide me. First, you simply don't have the time to make a full assessment of the situation by going through the statistics of 50 states and a dozen cities. You don't have the time to wage the pros and cons of closing down a couple of dozen airports and harbours, erect road blocks or close borders. And what is military support good for anyway? What's the benefit of nuking a city? Why would you ever want to shut down a hospital in such a crisis?

Maybe if the game was turn-based, some strategy-enthusiasts with a love of number crunching would appreciate this game. But the way it is, you grow bored with it pretty quickly.

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Splurgy July 29, 2009 4:12 PM

The only fun I had was by saving up and then nuking completely uninfected cities (Goodbye, New York!).
Neutron bombs seem to raise panic less, at least that's the impression I get.

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Eh. I like this one a lot, but it doesn't have the same sadistic charm as Pandemic 2. I *love* that one. Personally, I'd like some of the features from this game moved to Pandemic 2 and maybe splicing them a bit. That'd rock!

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I didn't get the 'Operation Iceberg' trophy by

nuking all of the cities

at least on the 'Easy' setting with 'Open' government. I wonder how to get it...

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Anonymous July 30, 2009 4:23 AM

Tim, a couple of people have decompiled the game, and it seems that there's no trigger to get Operation Iceberg at the moment. Either the developers messed up, and/or they're planning to update the game with the trophy at a later time.

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They weren't kidding when they said, "Easy". I beat it on my first try! I still have yet to beat the second Pandemic game.

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Wow, I'm actually a bit disappointed to see how generally positive this review actually is. I agree the game has a shiny well-polished feel to it at first, including a wonderfully epic-sounding soundtrack (until you realize how short a loop it is for how many times you're going to have to hear it each time you play), but sadly, it's a shiny polished apple with a rotten mushy poison core.

The game design itself is actually spectacularly bad, in everything from the actual game mechanics themselves (such as the timing of paying for your ongoing operations or keeping up with developments during a media blackout) to the many MANY deeply misguided UI choices (such as the lack of real volume control besides a mute button buried in a menu three clicks deep from the game screen or the OMG LACK OF A FAST-FORWARD BUTTON), to the apparent presence of completely broken features like the Iceberg Trophy... I could go on (and on and on). Was this game even tested before release? It's unimaginable to me that ANYONE actually playing through it from Start to Surgeon General would fail to notice flaws like these. It's a real shame too, because the seed of something quite worthwhile really is buried in the muck, but the game as presented is a real chore and a terrible slog to play through.

Add to all of that quite breathtaking obliviousness and contempt for the players with which the designers handled an apparent issue with Kongregate's badge system (i.e. casually wiping out everyone's pre-Aug.1 progress and making everyone start over unlocking all the different game-modes again without so much as a Sorry For The Inconvenience), and I would really have to say that American Swine is to the Pandemic series what WinME is to Windows. It looks great until you actually try to do anything with it.

I ended up having to give the game a 1/5 rating on Kong (something I don't do lightly), and I just wish more of the negatives showed through in the review here too.

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Softbagel14 Author Profile Page August 5, 2009 5:11 AM

2/5
This game actually entertained me for a while, which is why I gave it a 2/5 instead of a 1/5. Why was it bearable for me? Because I was making a pizza! So every time I had to wait for more money, I just went back to making my pizza :) I also had my volume turned down.
After my pizza was done, though, the absence of the fast forward button made itself known as I stared at the painfully slow timer above my brown and green USA.
The concept was humorus and graphics clean, but there were too many things missing to make it a good game. I kept wanting there to be more to look at- The design was too simple. No fast forward. Little replay value. No worthwhile goals. This could have been something better. I still look forward to the next pandemic game, so don't disappoint me!

-SB

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Ok. As everyone said before me, we need to have a fast-forward button! I get so bored with this!

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What I don't understand is why Nevada's unvaccinated population can go up when I blocked off all the roads going in and out!

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CatalystParadox Author Profile Page August 7, 2009 2:16 PM

Unfortunately not in the same category as Pandemic 2 (which was highly entertaining even if it was 80% luck and 20% strategy).

The lack of a fast-forward, as well as the confusing spike then loss of resources as each tick rolls over leaving only a small opportunity to re-distribute made it a pain in the neck for me.

One stage at a time advancement with income and expense management would have made a lot more sense, to me.

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you can make the time faster if you click the clock next to the number of days

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Operation Iceberg can be obtained. Do some research on the dates..

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I remember playin this... I compleatly forgot about a state. Later found my last city with infected people so i nuked it. it was the only place in that state with vaxinated so the death toll went from 3 million to 10 million

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JIGuest, could you be clearer on how to obtain the Operation Iceberg trophy? Since the original game was decompiled to show that the trophy is never triggered, and the update list doesn't mention it, I imagine most people feel little incentive to rush in again without precise instructions.

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a cool but hard game

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Masterfreeze November 15, 2009 10:53 AM

I have gotten all trophies except Operation Iceberg!!! It makes me mad. Does anyone know how to get the operation iceberg trophy? Give easy instructions.

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According to Wikipedia "Operation Iceberg, was fought on the Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa and was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific Theater of World War II. Nearly 60,000 troops stormed ashore on the initial invasion. The 82 day long battle lasted from late March until June 1945."
Perhaps this suggests that you have to win on the 82nd day.. or have less than 60000 people die..., or the number on the missle means you have to finish in less than 16 days...

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LadyOfTheNight Author Profile Page November 30, 2009 7:23 AM

Hmm... that's weird... I nuked that city in Colorado that I can't remember the name of, and I still have over 3,000 people not only left alive, but perfectly healthy...

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To get the iceberg trophy you only need to

set the date on your computer to April 1st and complete the game

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MethanalCHO Author Profile Page January 14, 2010 4:05 PM

Pretty good game, completed it once before by vaccination. The only major flaw I have noticed in-game is that the infected cannot recover.

In reality, mortality rates for flu epidemics are normally at 0.1%: the remaining 99.9% recover just fine. A slight modification to the game could be made to accomodate this fact. Even the horrible 1918 avian flu pandemic had a mortality rate of only 2.5%.

But this is only one small flaw in an otherwise great game. Other than the trouble with the Operation Iceberg trophy, that is.

FINAL GRADE: 90% (A-)

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MethanalCHO Author Profile Page January 14, 2010 4:07 PM

Forgot to mention this:

Also has terrific graphics! If a Pandemic 3 were to be released, I'd expect the graphics to appear somewhat like this game's.

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Not sure why the reviewer didn't note that there are indeed two speed settings. I mean, it's all there if you go through the instructions, if I recall. But who bothers with instructions, eh? Manuals are for pussies, right?

Not that I'd want it to run twice as fast, anyway- if something unexpected happens, I want it immediately reverted, and that takes time to click that button. Not to mention I'd like to be able to pause. In fact, somebody suggested turn-based, and I'd have loved that, considering the game's economy is mostly handled on a daily basis, anyway. It won't even update the net income indicator in the budget window until after a day has passed, telling if you overdid it on the curfews or something only after the fact.

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Anonymous June 7, 2010 9:30 PM

Here is how to get the Operation Iceberg acheivement:

Open up game
Change your computer's date to 4/1
Start the game
(the US will be reversed)
after you win on any difficulty, you get the award.

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This was a lot more fun when it was about killing people, not saving them. *insert evil laugh here*

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Playing trying to rid the country of the virus was alright, but in the end, I went back to the old "destroy humanity" concept and watched everyone who survived the cities getting bombed slowly get wiped out.

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