Evil Genius: review

  • Format: PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Rebellion, Sierra Entertainment (original publisher)
  • Developer: Elixir Studios
  • Players:       1
  • Site: http://www.evilplanet.com (fan site)

Sitting in a big, plush chair at the top of a secret volcano base on an island of undisclosed location is something that is usually only reserved for Bond villains and their cats. Now it’s your turn in Evil Genius.

Throwing you deep into the position of overlord of an overtly camp minion force who will hollow out a mountain so you can make it your base is a bit of a schoolboy fantasy. Yes, James Bond may have had fun with the ladies and the suits, but he never had his own doom complex around a dormant volcano did he? That’s where the real fun lies.

In the game, the only person you have direct control over is your evil genius, who you can pick from a line up of three. It’s a good idea to hide them somewhere safe, fast, as they are a big walking bulls eye and the heart of your evil operation. If they die, you have failed. Your evil genius is a beacon of inspiration and evil deeds being the head of all operations of injustice. As such your minions will get a stat boost in their presence.

The first thing to strike you quite bluntly in the face when playing the game is how fun evil interior decorating is. Your first task is to cut into a mountain, ordering the placement of corridors and rooms that lay the foundations of pure evil. It is your blank canvas for potential deviance and trickery that you have to think about carefully to be sure to get every ounce of evil out of it.

You will need a barracks for your minions to sleep, a training room for them to learn, a canteen for them to eat, a staff room for them to kick back, and maybe a few stolen monuments for them to bask in your evil glory. The most important aspect of Evil Genius is to keep your work force happy and efficient. This makes the entire process of taking over the world as pain free and enjoyable as possible.

Minions come in several different flavours, but to begin with, you only have access to the worker. They are your core work force who build the base that you design and can muck in with anything. Later on you can unlock soldiers, scientists, technicians, martial artists and so many more to really make your evil hive buzz. As well as minions your evil genius will be able to recruit henchmen, the Jaws like characters in this James Bond analogy. They are your top security personnel and are quite useful for disposing of unwanted agents snooping about.

This game just oozes humour and acknowledges just about every spy film imaginable from James Bond to Austin Powers. If there is a spy film cliché that you can think of, the chances of it being featured in Evil Genius are high. It even comes complete with over the top acts of infamy, such as shrinking down the Eiffel Tower and stealing it for a monument in your base.

As in all these spy films, there are always secret agents trying to snoop around and stop the villain’s plans. Over the course of the game various people, depending on how much attention you have drawn to yourself, will come to your island such as investigators, saboteurs and soldiers. It is only when you really upset people though that you start attracting super agents.

If you consider yourself Ernst Stavro Blofeld, then these will be your James Bond equivalents that borrow from every single stereotype laid down in spy fiction. You have the bikini clad vixen, the kung fu specialist, the Rambo gun nut and the suave and sophisticated suit wearing Bond-a-like. These make your life very difficult and true to the opposites they parody, do not actually die. They can be knocked out, captured or sent home crying, but they do not relent unless you can find a specific way to get to them.

Of course to help delay them you can build traps in your base, such as giant wind turbines, circular saws, gas chambers and piranha pits all triggered by various hidden sensors. It can be fun to string them together creating complex trap networks that blow secret agents and minions that don’t pay attention into columns of fire or electricity. The amount of sadistic fun you can have doing this is disturbing.

The graphics are a bit simplistic, even by 2004 standards, but the bright colours and simple design of most things just help add to the charm of it all. The cartoon- like palette helps highlight the less serious side of everything and makes the game more fun.

The problems that faced this game on release still plague it a bit today in the form of several quite overwhelming bugs. There was an official patch that fixed some of them and then an unofficial patch that fixed even more, both being essential to enjoy the game properly. Having recently seen a re-release on Steam, this means that as well as being quite readily available, there is also a lot of community help available that can help you with patching if you have any issues.

Evil Genius is a fun game that took a similar idea to Dungeon Keeper, and gave it a liberal coat of spy fiction, coming up with a genuinely original and innovative game. It is a real blast to play through and if you can get over the odd glitch here and there, it is definitely worthy of the hard drive space. In a world full of FPS clones and similar feeling RTSs, something like this is a real breath of evil fresh air.


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Written by Anthony H

Anthony has been playing games for far too much of his life, starting with the MS-DOS classic Mario is Missing. Since then his tastes have evolved to include just about anything, but his soft spot lies with shooters and the odd strategy game. Anthony will inspire you with his prose, uplift you with his wit and lie to you in his biography.

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