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Posted on Sep 29, 2004 in Electronic Games

Evil Genius – Game Review (PC)

By Doctor Sinister

OVERVIEW

There are lots of games out there extolling the virtues of the military, Special Forces teams or spies, but this is the first game, to my knowledge, to tackle the very real hardships faced by supervillains around the world. Although I dislike competition, this can only be good for the global domination industry as it may see the beginning of a shift in public attitudes towards professionals like myself.

When I first heard of Evil Genius nearly two years ago, I could not wait to get a copy for myself. Fortunately, with the aid of a passing orbital laser satellite, I was able to convince the editors of the Armchair General website to give me a free review copy.

My first impressions on loading the game are that it is a pastiche. Cheesy 60’s-style music fills the air and dancing silhouettes cover my screen like the introduction to some second rate Bond film. This immediately puts me in a Bad Mood, and I contemplate ordering some random executions to cheer myself up, but then I enter the Tutorial Mode and things begin to get better.

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I am looking down from the sky on a remote island paradise. Waves gently crash onto the beaches and a large mountain sits in the middle of the island. This, it seems, is my training centre – where I will learn how to build my first hidden lair. A helicopter arrives and drops “me” off. My character is a short, fat balding man with a monocle. Although an eyepatch would have been better, I can live with this. A large gentleman with an Afro’ haircut is accompanying me. This, it seems, is my first Henchman.

Very shortly, a pleasant young lady is briefing me on how to construct my underground base. She tells me how to control my Minions and how to construct defences to keep enemy agents away. I soon get to grips with the controls and am able to run things myself. But it’s a pity for her that this lady knows too much.

Pah! Who needs to read the game manual? This being evil stuff comes naturally to me!

Evil Genius Pic 2
“You haf failed me for ze last time!” Your Evil Genius can personally execute Minions in order to “encourage” the remainder to work harder. The blue aura around your Evil Genius is the influence he exerts over nearby followers. Being near to your Evil Genius raises certain statistics for each of your Minions – except in this case, obviously.

GAMEPLAY

Evil Genius deals with the day-to-day trials and tribulations of being a megalomaniac. You get to construct and run your own base, recruit and train new Minions, and devise dastardly schemes to subjugate the world. Once you enter the game proper, you even get to choose how your own Evil Genius will look. There are three avatars to choose, from but I stick with the fat bald chap. I’m not a woman, and I don’t like the look of the Mandarin fellow, but that’s just me.

The game is presented in a top-down viewpoint with the ability to scroll in and out and rotate the map using the mouse. Your Evil Genius avatar and any Henchmen at his disposal are also directly controlled with the mouse. Minions however cannot be directly controlled, but simply respond to general orders that are given around your base – such as issuing instructions to build a new room within the mountain base, or hunting down any snooping enemies.

Rooms available from the start include barracks for your Minions, a freezer for storing dead enemy Agents, a strong room for all your loot and a control centre for – well, for conquering the planet. Your control centre can be equipped with consoles and memory banks and manned with suitably trained Minions who will watch over the world and identify any juicy missions for you to undertake. It’s almost like a home away from home.

Additional room types and equipment to go within each room are made available as you progress through the game – including traps to stop enemy Agents infiltrating your organisation and training devices to teach your Minions new tasks so they can graduate to higher levels.

Within a few short hours, I’m installing a nuclear power plant in my secret base and running a hotel out on the beach whilst raking in cash from an operation that spans the globe. But I couldn’t do any of it without my Minions.

MINIONS

Minions start at a basic level – the worker. Workers build your base, and fill it with exotic machinery when you tell them to, as and when you can afford it. As you progress through the game you can train your basic Minions into Guards, Valets and Diplomats, all of which have unique skills and all of which are vital if your mission of world domination is to succeed.

I soon find that basic workers are expendable – and it’s fun to target them for elimination if you find yourself getting bored, as you can soon recruit more. You’d be surprised how often I do this in real life as well. It’s a pastime.However, if you want to run things properly, it’s best to look after them or they will die from exhaustion or leave your employment through lack of loyalty.

Build a Barracks and equip it with beds (and later, cryogenic chambers) to refresh them, and set them up with a Mess Hall so they can eat. Later on you can buy them pinball machines and widescreen TVs – yes, this game is sometimes a cross between Dungeon Keeper and The Sims. It can be expensive, but worth it in the long run. But none of my own staff better start getting any ideas.

Minions in Evil Genius
Under the constant watchful eye of a nearby security camera, some blindly loyal Minions swot up on the latest styles for decorating my underground lair.

[continued on nextpage]

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