Evil Genius is a game designed by Elixir studios and published by Sierra
in 2004. You play an evil mastermind with a legion of minions and a plan for world domination.
I purchased this game mainly because I had fond memories of Dungeon Keeper and the screenshots on the back made it seem very similar in gameplay. Indeed, the process of building your hollowed out volcano base will seem very similar to anyone familiar with Bullfrog's evil-sim. However although the construction aspects of the games are almost identical, the games require very different styles of play. Dungeon Keeper was a hybrid of construction and real time strategy elements, while Evil Genius focuses much more on efficient management of minions and resources.
I love the game's sense of style, it goes for an Austin Powers/No One Lives Forever type sixties feel and is true to the conventions of its concept. Evil minions wear the type of florescent yellow jumpsuit you might see in the base from You Only Live Twice and your genius can visit captured heroes for a spot of Maniacal Laughter and a "Notoriety" stat bonus.
The player has a choice of avatar, either a tall, moustached, mysterious Asian character, a glamorous, fur coated lady mastermind or a bald Dr Evil/Blofeld parody. Fighting against you will be five factions representing different parts of the world all sending generic inspector/soldier/spy troopers to land on your island from time to time. Each fraction also has their own "Super agent"; an agent obviously parodying a specific type of hero from popular culture, The James Bond a-like John Steele will cause you many headaches. Your minions gather money and perform (Non interactive) evil missions in different parts of the globe, the trick is not to annoy any one faction too much.
The resource gathering and missions happen on a big colour coded world map, one of my complaints against the game is that you feel quite detached from these evil deeds you are performing. Your role is mainly to allocate the right men for the job and defend the base until they get back.
The base defence is a lot more in depth. In Dungeon Keeper or a game like Command & conquer if your base is being infiltrated you simply send a troop of minions to eliminate the problem. In Evil Genius you just "Tag" characters according to how they should be dealt with, you must set up an efficient network of security cameras and alarms for your minions to find them quickly. A cool feature is the ability to tag enemies for "psychological weakening"-certain minions can bribe, annoy, distract or charm their targets, it is quite satisfying when a team of weapons inspectors infiltrates your base only to get caught up in such a whirlwind of bribes and spin that they leave forgetting they even saw the nuclear super weapon and the stolen Ark of the Covenant decorating your lunch room.
Super agents are more difficult. When you hear their theme music signalling their arrival its time to prepare to be minced. A minor annoyance with the game is how powerless you are against the special characters. Super agents are not just strong, they are practically invincible. They carve a path straight through your minions and toward your evil self, lock them up and they escape, knock them down and they get right back up again with full health. They are also the only enemies capable of permanently killing your special henchmen (although when you order your marksman character to take down secret agent Jet Chan with a bullet and he decides to use his fists you can't help but feel he deserves what he gets). Until you get the story missions to kill them your defences mainly consist of hiding behind the sofa and pretending not to be home.
The other main problem I have with the game is its slow pace, there have been numerous times when my agents were performing a mission when I had nothing to do but sit around playing guitar (In real life) or watching tv until the next alarm went. However I am hooked on it for the way it taps into the simple pleasure of creating stuff and getting cool new stuff to create with. It was hard to keep a grin off my face when I realised that every item of research in the laboratory from vats of chemicals to the giant "frikken" laser doubled up as an interrogation tool for prisoners. The gameplay runs continuously through chapters, other than upgrading to a new island halfway through the game there are no "levels", you keep expanding the same base the whole way through.
Overall, I found the game to be enjoyable, spoiled only by the occasional patch of boredom and an "is that it"? ending