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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: November 1, 2004
In every international spy thriller, the utterly loathsome arch-villain has always been a major center of attention, with power many of us secretly aspire to possess. From movie franchises like James Bond to television series like Get Smart and computer games such as No One Lives Forever, the megalomaniac seeking to dominate the world has been consistently fascinating. Now Elixir Studios, through the release of Evil Genius, gives us each a chance to fulfill our darkest fantasy, to become that criminal nemesis ourselves. Harkening back to Bullfrog’s Dungeon Keeper, this hybrid combining strategy, management, construction, and combat attempts to bring us back to the pure joy of 1960s spy-versus-spy confrontations.
Your mission is to build a secret lair on an “uninhabited volcanic island of undisclosed location,” manage lots of dastardly minions and henchmen, and of course, ultimately take over the world. You get a macro-view of all the action, which includes torturing enemy agents, researching new sinister technologies (including a doomsday device), designing laboratories, plus maintaining and defending your island lair. The mission structure interestingly often has you undertaking multiple missions at the same time. To increase your notoriety, you may even steal priceless treasures and kidnap famous people. You begin with enough money to start financing your dreams, but then later gather more by stealing from others – accomplished best by sending soldiers abroad to engage in grand larceny.
The gameplay in Evil Genius is split into two parts. The first and larger aspect focuses on building a base truly worthy of a villain planning world domination. Taking care of your minions and developing new technologies take up most of your time in this section, in which you try to accomplish a handful of broad objectives. The second part opens up after you finish your initial base, and it emphasizes use of the world domination map, where you send your underlings out to various parts of the world to implement your destructive operations. Resembling the board game Risk or the computer title SuperPower, you place your agents in several geographical locations so as to further your underhanded plans, including stealing money, gathering intelligence, recruiting or kidnapping other spies (especially others’ military and scientific experts), or attacking territories.
Playing the villain rather than the hero is a nice twist. You get to choose among three criminal masterminds – the bald Maximilian, the alluring Alexis, and the sly Shen Yu – each beginning with a distinctive henchman. A total of eleven henchmen, each with a special personality and skill set, are available to help oversee your operations. These colorfully-named characters include such lovable folk as Red Ivan, Montezuma, the Butcher, Dr. Neurocide, and Eli Barracuda. While the henchmen are a lot more powerful (and quite loyal) than the more numerous minions, they can be killed if pummeled enough, and you may only hire seven at one time. Building and managing a criminal empire turns out to be quite a different proposition from the more customary task of restoring justice in the world.
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