Product Type: VU PC games
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The one where James Bond doesn't win.
Evil Genius (PC)
Member Name: The Duke
Evil Genius (PC)
Date: 10/10/06, updated on 11/10/06 (242 review reads)
Advantages: Excellent gameplay, good humour, Good graphics and sound. Easy to control.
Disadvantages: Very difficult at later stages, sometimes hard to figure out what to do.
In “Evil Genius”, you’re a fledgling bad guy in the big bad world with a bit of cash at your disposal. Your ultimate aim is to become an (you’ve guessed it…) EVIL GENIUS! What you have to do is built your secret lair inside a mountain using basic construction minions and your cash and then send your minions out into the world to perform missions. These missions may bring loot, advanced technology or different types of people, from whom you can extract knowledge and produce specialist minions. For example, if you capture a maid and interrogate her, then your basic construction minion will be upgraded to a valet. He can then go out on missions for you that require valets or train up other valets from your pool of construction minions (provided you have provided your minions with the required training room and equipment, of course). It’s vitally important to go out and complete missions because the advanced rooms and minions that can be gained from these are necessary for the later stages in the game. Additionally, each mission you perform has certain levels of heat and notoriety involved. Notoriety is good as it is linked with your evil reputation whereas heat is bad as it attracts all sorts of pesky do-gooders including Super Agents to your secret island base to snoop around.
In some ways, “Evil Genius” is exactly the same game as Dungeon Keeper, albeit with a few differences. Demis Hassibis (founder of Elixir) used to work at Bullfrog, the creators of Dungeon Keeper so the influence of that company’s games is only to be expected really.
When I first installed and played the game, I was kind of disappointed as I’d figured (from the little I’d read in the gaming press) that Evil Genius was going to be something unique rather than a clone of a seven year old game. That quickly disappeared however, as I was a huge fan of Dungeon Keeper. Furthermore, ‘Evil Genius’ has the look and feel of such games like “No-One Lives Forever” (despite being different genres) and the Austin Powers movies. That’s to say it takes the spy film stereotype of the 60s and plays on it with tongue firmly lodged in cheek.
There’s a lot going on during a game of Evil Genius. You’ll spend most of your time in the main screen, making sure life in your secret hideout is going smoothly, that your rooms are adequately equipped, your minions are doing what they should and that naughty agents are repelled or captured. You will have to also keep an eye on your mission screen to see what you need to do to progress, the minion recruitment screen to ensure that you have adequate numbers and types of minion for each mission you wish to undertake as well as the world view where you can see what missions are available and where. It’s not a game where you can simply load up and switch off your brain and enjoy some mindless world domination.
The game is hard (or rather, gets hard during later stages), but the difficulty level is not totally frustrating which is always a huge positive for games of this type. There are odd moments when you’re waiting for one of your minions to do something (build a room, supply a piece of equipment, train to become a specialist etc.) and they don’t seem to responding to your commands which can be a little frustrating, but overall they tend to do what you want which isn’t bad when you have no direct control over them. On the subject of frustration, there have been one or two times where I've simply not known what I'm meant to do at that stage (e.g. force a scientist to defect and help you concoct a Doomsday plan) and this has caused some frustration as there's no real help from the 'glossary' (in-game help system), but I got around that by performing the same mission a few times until I got the outcome I was looking for.
Control is mostly mouse-driven, though there are a few keyboard strokes and combinations to make life easier. I found that it took me a while to get used to this, probably because I don't usually play games of this genre, but after a few minutes of trial and error, it became quite natural.
Despite the fact the game’s already over two years old, I did find some performance issues on my PC. When I had my full complement of minions running around my secret base, the screen moved sluggishly and even stopped on occasion. It’s a minor annoyance because, at these times, you’re in a position when lots of agents and super agents will come calling to your island with a view to ending your reign of terror.
Visually, the game is very striking. The look and feel of the game is very reminiscent of the Austin Powers movies or the No-One Lives Forever series of games i.e. very 60s and cartoonish. The actual game engine is the same as Dungeon Keeper, with you viewing your world from above with the ability to move around the world and rotate your viewing angle as well as having the capability of zooming in and out. It’s possible to zoom right into the main screen where you’re running your secret hideout and watch individual minions or henchmen act on your behalf. If you’ve captured a Super Agent, then your Evil Genius avatar will come from wherever you left him to gloat as your minion tortures the intruder and this can all be viewed in close-up.
While there are a lot of sound effects in the game, it's possible you won't notice the half of them. It's not as if they're poor, just that you really don't get to hear them properly unless you zoom right in on the main screen to see life around the base. Otherwise, what you're most likely to hear is the music and the little musical 'announcements' that indicate something important has just happened. They do their job well and the music suits both the type of game and, strange as it may sound, the visual style, too.
There’s a lot to Evil Genius and once you’re into the middle of a game, there will be a lot going on, required constant switching from various screens, but while it initially seems daunting, there’s an excellent tutorial to get you started on the basics. I have a lot of fun playing Evil Genius and each new game can be different to any previous ones, giving it longevity beyond your first game. There are a lot of funny little touches that aren't immediately apparent, but part of the fun of the game is spotting these.
For those of you interested in world domination, Evil Genius is now available on "budget" labels for the not-very-evil price of under a tenner.
Evil Genius (minimum) requirements:
Pentium® III 800 MHz or higher
128 MB RAM – Windows® 98SE/ME,
256 MB RAM – Windows® 2000/XP
GeForce™2 MX 16MB or equivalent DirectX® 9 compatible video card
16x CD-ROM drive
DirectX® 9.0b Compatible Sound Card
MS compatible mouse
My PC specifications (where different):
2500Mhz AMD Athlon processor
256MB Radeon 9600SE graphics card
Soundblaster 24-bit soundcard
Summary: Update of Dungeon Keeper using Austin Powers as a template.