Should I Buy? – Evil Genius

Ever wanted to build your own underground lair? Did you ever vow revenge on those that called you mad? Has world conquest ever been your burning ambition? Well your time has come! Evil Genius is a 2004 game designed to allow you to do just that. Though you’ll probably find it classified under ‘strategy’ or ‘simulation’, it’s really more of a ‘resource management’ sim in line with Theme Hospital or Dungeon Keeper.

The premise of the game is simple. You select one of three Evil Geniuses, the narcissistic beauty Alexis, the scheming former Triad member Shan Yu or the industrialist with a Napoleon complex Maximillion and lead them to world domination. Along the way you’ll recruit an army of henchmen and minions, fight the world’s deadliest superagents and commit such vile acts of evil that never again shall the world ignore or laugh at you.

You don’t ever lead your troops in the field to do this. Instead you plan and furnish your base, set up the security systems, train the minions and send them out into the world to do your bidding. Some of you might be put off by this managerial approach but it presents its own challenges and intricacies.

Before I go on to talk about the rather mixed bag that is the gameplay I want to talk about what this game does so right that those flaws can be overlooked. First of all, this game has its tongue very firmly in its cheek. This is a parody of the 60’s, of old Bond films and cheesy spy stuff in general. Everything from the design to the animations and even the flavour text is designed to lovingly send up the entire genre of spy fiction.

The unique characters like your henchmen and the superagents of justice are great examples of this. You can recruit a New York gangster, a cannibalistic surgeon, and a Russian heavy among many other to fight off the James Bond or Rambo parodies.

And the ‘Acts of Infamy’ you commit are suitably heinous without ever making you feel like you’re kicking a puppy or something. They’re things like making sure the police find squeaky elephants instead of poached ivory or sinking a ship full of tea bound for the UK.

But while you’re ordering people to do these your stuck back at your base. You’ve only got limited room to build places in your secret island lair and you need to balance the size of the room against its importance, and make sure it’s easily accessible and not going to be found or passed through by people that shouldn’t go there.

This can cause plenty of headaches, especially in your first few games. And demolishing rooms later can be more trouble than its worth. Also, the only units you have direct control over are you henchmen (who can’t build or operate your machinery) and your Evil Genius his/herself. This means you have to rely on a bunch of sliders and priority tags to get the AI to do what you want.

There’s also a good number of bugs that make sensible decisions detrimental. Sending out your awesomely powerful henchmen on missions must seriously increase the chances of success right? Actually no, their huge positive value is actually read as a negative. Same goes for a Science Minion’s Plotting score. These are fixed with a patch, but this kind of problem should never make it to release.

There’s also some issues with pacing. This is obviously the type of game that is meant to go slow but waiting while you have to track down and perform certain missions with nothing much to do but tinker with traps and plan out a room gets old fast.

Oh, there’s something I didn’t mention! The traps. Around your base you can research and set up various over the top traps. You start with just Nerve Gas but eventually you’ll have things like the Giant Red Button and the Pirahna Pit that you can liberally sprinkle your base with to deal with pesky intruders. Just be warned, it can hit your guys too.

Evil Genius is a fun game. Well designed and charming, but weighed down by a few simple flaws that should and probably could have been remedied with a little more play-testing spit and polish. It’s definitely something you should investigate, and there is a demo out there that you can try to help you get a feel for the game.

Price: PC – £3 (CEX) – £6.99 (Steam)


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