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"Your 'reality', sir, is lies and balderdash and I'm delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever."
— Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von M√ľnchhausen

Friday Free Game: Virus 2

This week's Friday Free Game is a puzzler like you've never seen before. Virus 2 is definitely light on bells and whistles, but its good depth and unique gameplay had me hooked by the end of the second round.

The board is a hexagonal grid, and each hex is filled with one of seven different colors. The object of the game is to have your "virus" cover the entire board by switching the color of your virus. When you switch colors, any hexes of that color that are touching an "infected" hex become infected themselves. You have up to 35 moves in the first round, and this maximum drops by one each round. Play until you fail.

The first round may strike you as a little too easy: you could probably win by choosing your colors randomly. But as the game progresses and the maximum drops towards 30, you find yourself scanning the board, tracing the patterns of each color, trying to anticipate your next move. Like any good game, it's easy to learn, but deeper than it appears.

There are a few things missing from the game. For example, having some sort of visual indication of which hexes are infected would have made the game more playable and attractive. Sometimes, if you're not looking carefully, you might think that a particular region of hexes is already claimed without realizing that while they're the same color as your virus, they're not touching it. The second thing missing is some variation. While I love the basic gameplay, it does get a bit repetitive without something to break it up. Third – and this may be personal bias – I dislike puzzlers that are inherently finite. The "one-less-move-per-round" mechanic means that you can probably only play a maximum of 15 to 20 rounds, based on the distribution of colors. I doubt it's possible to claim the entire board in less than 25-30 moves.

Still, Virus 2 is a clever and engaging little game, despite its lack of refinement. Happy infection!

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The Red Bull Diary is the personal pulpit and intellectual dumping-ground for its author, an amateur game designer, professional programmer, political centrist and incurable skeptic. The Red Bull Diary is gaming, game design, politics, development, geek culture, and other such nonsense.