Viral Days is the latest game from indie developer Quizista that takes the fight against a COVID-19-like virus to Android and iOS touchscreens. Unlike Plague Inc., which is about the numerical impact of abstract decisions, Viral Days takes a novel, hands-on and people-focused approach. It almost reminds you of SimCity. "Take good care of people as they walk the streets of your town" is how its description begins.
The virus propagates in Viral Days over the air just like the coronavirus and is represented as little green bubbles floating around infected persons. When an infected person passes by, healthy people lose some of their "hit points". After someone's health bar has been completely depleted, that person falls ill and goes on to infect others. People who are close enough to each other for the virus to spread are "enveloped" in a color that reflects how critical the situation is.
Here comes your task. You're in charge of keeping the population healthy. Nobody dies in this game, but every infection costs you a "heart". If you lose all of them in a single level then it's game over.
You can home-quarantine infected persons, or you can hospitalize them. Like in the real world, masks don't solve all problems, but they do help a lot. In Viral Days, you own a little factory that makes them, and have the option of buying more.
As you reach higher levels, you get to hire your own little helpers: mask sellers, doctors, and cops. You can upgrade them so they make you more money or serve more people. And if you upgrade your buildings, like speeding up your mask production, the positive effects are permanent.
There are currently 25 levels to play, with each one featuring its own map and divided into several days (hence the name). Before the start of each day, you get a "breathing space" of 30 seconds where the virus doesn't spread and nobody goes anywhere until you tell them to.
With great responsibilities come great powers in Viral Days: you can disperse crowds and, starting at level 18, you get to impose lockdowns. Just like in real life, lockdowns are impactful, but have adverse effects on your economy. So you must use them judiciously.
Each level is playable in three modes (from Novice to Expert) and comes with up to three special goals--objectives such as "sell 50 masks", "hospitalize 20 people", "earn 10,000 coins", or "stop 10 joggers". And in some levels, superspreaders pose another challenge.
Some of Viral Days' signature elements are reminiscent of tower defense or life simulation games that form an original concept, with viral infections and an array of disease control measures at its core.
Perhaps the best and most significant aspect of the game however is the lasting impression it provides after playing it. As one Canadian gamer wrote on Twitter: "When I was looking out at the people in my neighbourhood not socially distancing, I was imagining the infection bubbles around them enveloping other people and me wanting to click on them to put a mask on them and/or send them home!”.