Do you want to take over the world?
Do you live on a large uninhabited Island of undisclosed location?
Are you the head of a nameless, faceless, diabolical organisation that plans to unleash global mayhem and destruction?
Do you want to be?
I used to be a huge fan of Dungeon Keeper and Dungeon Keeper 2 back in the day and to be honest there hasn't been a game that captured my attention or the management genre of being a diabolical mastermind quite like it, until now. Evil Genius isn't quite up to the standard of the other two games in gameplay additions and fun, but it's close enough for me to have a new favourite game.
You are one of three unique Evil Masterminds bent on World Domination and with enough monetary backing to realise those dreams. Your first step to achieving those goals is to purchase a large island of indeterminate location from which to plot your evil schemes.
The game plays in traditional isometric view with a rotatable and scalable camera, in many respects similar to the recent slew of RTS games and so forth that have fallen upon us like a torrent of point-click-battle goodness. Those of you familiar with the Dungeon Keeper will however be instantly at home as you can build the stronghold of your most dastardly dreams, replete with various rooms and evil traps.
Building is done with a right click on some 'mineable' rock and you will be taken to the room panel, a quick selection there and you're able to drag out the pattern with your LMB, don't like it or there's some changes you want to make, drag over it with the RMB and you're sorted - it's quick, simple and easy even at this stage.
Press a button on the room panel and you'll order that particular room, but it will be set paused for now while you enter another small panel. Here you can choose to cancel, refine the room or even order objects such as Bunk Beds or Security Desks, depending on the room in question.
Objects can be rotated with a swift click of the RMB and will align themselves with walls and so on without much input from you, which is an excellent move on the developers part. Objects can also be moved by your workforce by selecting their move icon from the right click menu.
Once you're satisfied (And what true Evil Megalomaniac is ever satisfied? Execute your workforce, you know you want to!) then you can order the room building to take place.
Minions will rush to get money, purchase dynamite and blast the new room out of the rock for you. Then they'll scurry off like good little drones (except that one, he's not doing his job, have him eliminated) and buy your ordered objects, returning to place them in the desired place.
At this point I have to mention doors because depending on how far you are in the game, you can research various new kinds of doors. But to begin with you have a standard security door that can be used to provide limited access to various rooms about your base and block the actions of pesky government agents.
Don't like a room, right click it and order it destroyed, it's as easy as pie.
TIP: Play the Tutorial to learn more about the actual elements in the game
What Evil Group is complete without a horde of faceless lackeys to do their every dirty deed for them? Minions come in all shapes and sizes and at the start of the game you'll have a few construction workers and that's about it.
How do you get more?
The Minion Management Screen allows you to recruit more minions and train up new ones to replace those specialists fallen in combat or killed out in the world map. We'll come to that particular element soon enough.
A tip for you: Build several barracks and plenty of lockers (lockers give you more base population from which you can train up new minions)
New Minion types can be accessed once you have the requisite trainer (Seize some poor unfortunate person from the World Map and interrogate them) and the right room or piece of equipment for the job. Just select how many you want on the right hand side of the Minion box and the left hand number will flash to indicate there's a new Minion in training.
These are your stone-cold killers, hired help or people that just like you that much they want to join your Evil cause. At the beginning you'll get just one Henchman but as the game progresses you'll find more and be able to recruit from a choice of madcap characters.
The Research Screen
This is another important gameplay screen you'll find yourself staring at during the game, here you can make your scientists and technicians (assuming you have a lab and the right Minions) work on discovering new and interesting objects for you. The staff will go around your base and make notes on anything of interest, when they have enough notes you'll be able to start research on the new item depending on your equipment - pay a cash incentive to your men to work out which high-end technological doo-dad should be used to begin the process and hit 'Go'.
Once you have a control room and the right equipment within it you can begin to cause Global Mayhem by sending your men out into the world where they can commit Acts of Infamy. This is a simple world map and is portrayed with a set of counters, there's very little animation to it and I would have liked to see perhaps some moving videos of the various acts succeeding, is it too much to ask in this day and age? (There better be some in EG:2 or the Death Ray I've built will have a new target!).
You can order various Minions to appear in the various locations with a few clicks of the mouse, set them Stealing, Plotting or Hiding. The former is useful for getting the money needed to build your base of operations and the latter is very good for keeping out of the eyes of Goody Two-Shoes Government agents, investigators and spies.
Plotting is used for uncovering the various hidden things about a world area, such as new Minion types to kidnap and various key-objectives to undertake (Steal a vital piece of research and so on).
From time to time Agents will appear on the World Map and cause your Minions there to suffer from increased attrition, you'll need to keep a close eye on this and send them into hiding quick - each of the 5 main Security Forces has a Special Agent that causes insane attrition on the map as well as being a right pain on your base location if they turn up there.
You need Generators to keep your base running and every piece of equipment and door will take power to run, so make sure you keep an eye on that particular element before you suffer a catastrophic failure and your base doors are wide open.
As you gain Notoriety on the World Map from your Acts of Infamy, you'll also gain Heat from the various areas you're upsetting - in response to this they'll start to send in various kinds of Agents to your Island Paradise attempting to perform their own special missions, from blowing things up to just snooping around.
Build a nice Security Network and some Traps to deal with these pesky ants before they can cause trouble.
These are hapless wanderers that love nothing more to aimlessly nose about your secret Island, if they spot something suspicious they'll react in a variety of ways and if they leave whilst unsettled your Global Heat score will rise - bringing more nosey Agents to your Island - Answer, build a Hotel as soon as you can and keep them from wandering around your base.
I had to put this in its own little section because Traps in Evil Genius are fairly simple to use but require a knowledge of how the linking system works in order to get the best out of them. You can experiment to your hearts content with any kind of trap combination that takes your fancy and various sensors can be linked to trigger more than one trap.
Left clicking on a sensor will allow you to link it to a trap, a circle appears and when you left click that you can see a line extends, if it can be linked to a trap it will turn blue when you connect it to the trap circle - right clicking on a circle de-links it.
You might decide to use a fiendish wind-trap to blow enemies into a rotating saw, you can, if you link the correct sensors up to the traps. Experiment with combinations as they can yield cash bonus' if done correctly.
As you play the game you'll be given various Objectives to complete and so on, some of these will be optional and some are key to advancing the story/plot/Global Mayhem of the game. Later on you'll even be able to purchase a new Island and build and even bigger base of operations.
Interaction with the game's many character/objects is done through a quick double-click of the LMB or a swift click of the RMB. If you double-click a door for example you will zoom to that particular door and be able to see information on it, the same goes for characters and objects in the game - there are some useful sliders to be found and settings, just by double-clicking an item (Try the time-clock for instance).
Doors can be set to a number of security levels and used by your Minions, you and Henchmen or by your Evil Self and Guarded at all times, again, experiment with the settings.
You can also get to the settings and interaction options by simply right-clicking the object, in the case of Agents you can tag them for a variety of reasons - execution, elimination, mental manipulation - have fun being Evil.
Ok that about covers the various Gameplay aspects of Evil Genius, now we come to the nitty gritty bits of the review...
I have to say this, I think E-Genius is one of the most refreshing and gorgeous looking games I have seen for a long time. It's got a fresh comic-book approach that isn't too garish nor too realistic looking and there is a wonderful amount of detail that's been squeezed out of the polygons. It gets a thumbs up from me in this department and as you know by now, I don't talk technical specs.
Going hand in hand with the game's lush graphics are some exceptionally well modelled creations, especially the various pieces of equipment that have all been given that 60's - Spy Spoof genre look and fit perfectly with the tone of the game.
I Can't really say much about this apart from the fact I really wanted a random Island generator or a Build-your-Own Island option, sadly the game only comes with two Islands and while it's fun to build your own Level so to speak, it's not going to hold someone's attention for long without a free-build mode or something similar.
What you get is a bit of rock to build in with some nice static features outside the mountain and so on, so it's passable.
This is where the game really scores in my eyes, the actual characters are all well animated and have some quirky little set-pieces they do when you select them. Your Evil Genius is capable of various key animations unique to one of the three depending on who you choose.
But it doesn't end there, everything they could think of on the Island has been animated, the Helicopter that brings in new recruits, the boat that takes men on Missions depending where they're going on the World Map. It is all animated down to the gang plank and loading bay.
You'll see your men stop to chat, have a cigarette, interrogate someone by doing Michael Jacksons' Moonwalk, there's some pretty fun and twisted stuff to watch.
Top marks for this, it has true attention to detail.
Atmospheric and beautiful are two words I could use to describe the ambient sounds in this game, there's a wealth of little spot effects and sounds that go on, you can just spend a good half-hour listening to the various things from the control panels to the sound of the Helicopter or Boat as they leave for a mission.
This is where the game really scores again in regards to the sound department, the music to Evil Genius is campy and very 1960's, Bond, Austin Powers and so on. It has some of the best Orchestral style music that I have ever heard in a game and really does match the style of the Spy Genre very well - I want a CD with this stuff on, I really do.
While I'm here in this section take a look at the various game menus as well, you'll find they have their own musical score piece and animation. From the Synchronised Swimming Frogmen to the man being chased by monkeys - classic stuff.
Nothing special can be said about the AI, it does what it does and the Minions are pretty thick when it comes to Enemy Agents, they have to be told what to do unless under direct attack or threat - it can get a bit irritating at times to have to micro-manage the Tags but once you do get used to it you can set various behaviours by just Tagging an Agent for Capture or Kill for instance.
Any Minion that sees them will hunt that Agent down and do the chosen deed.
You can also set your base on Yellow (Minions will arm themselves but not attack unless told to) or Red Alert (Minions will arm themselves and kill any Tourist or Agent they come into contact with).
It does as much as it's told to and that's fine by me.
Keep this one safe, they have various special abilities (rather like the Henchmen) that are unique to the character, for example, Alexis has unwavering loyalty from her followers so they hardly ever desert due to low loyalty - loyalty can be increased by being in their sphere of influence and viewing loot items captured from the World Map.
Placement of the Genius and the Loot can be the difference between loyal minions and ones that run away from the Island at the first sign of a drop in their loyalty stat.
Your Evil Genius can also kill Minions, if this is done in front of the others they will gain a boost in morale (Fear will keep the others in line, you know) - each Genius has a unique execution that they perform upon the hapless individual.
Lastly if you want something built right away, select the EG and right click on build tag in question and your Minions will rush to do that task first. You can also do this on control panels and other items, your Minions will work themselves to death if you desire it.
Well that about wraps things up (Put the Ark of the Covenant over there, no I said, OVER THERE) for this review, so if you don't mind I'm going to return back to the game now and attempt to take over the world - the only true thing missing from Evil Genius being the Build Your Own Island option and a free-play mode.
Oh and perhaps a small mouse bent on world Domination.
All in all though, it is an excellent game worthy of a better sequel. EG is replete with rooms, traps and fun things to do - it will keep you on your toes and provide endless hours of fun just torturing poor tourists.
Be as Evil as you want.