Evil Genius Review

Duke Ferris
Evil Genius Info

genre

  • Strategy

players

  • 1 - 1

Publisher

  • Vivendi

Developer

  • Elixir

Release Date

  • 12/31/1969
  • Out Now

Platform

  • PC

rating

Since the beginning of time, man has yearned to destroy the sun.

Actually, my plan has always been to melt the polar icecaps. This would raise

the global sea level by about 250 feet. While the world map doesn’t

look too different, it turns out most major cities would be under at least

a hundred feet of water, including New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing,

Shanghai, Istanbul, Seoul, Bombay, Rio De Janeiro, Manila, Jakarta, Hamburg,

Palermo, San Francisco, Lisbon, Edinburgh, Singapore, Taipei, Honolulu, St. Petersburg,

Portland, Seattle, Sidney, Perth, Bangladesh, San Diego, Venice, Boston, Johannesburg,

and Washington D.C.. Not to mention the entire state of Florida, and the entire

countries of Holland, Denmark, and most importantly, filthy Belgium.

A friend of mine once asked me if my plan was to buy the land that would become the new beachfront real estate.

“Real estate?” I asked him. “Mwahahahahahaha!”

Thus,

I was pleased when Evil

Genius
fell into my sinister, vise-like grip. If you long for global

domination, if you appreciate the iron fist, if you have always rooted for Oddjob, Jaws, Blofeld,

copycat Dr.

Evil
, or even just the Flying Monkeys, Evil Genius is the game for you.

The game draws from all the classic 60’s spy movies and TV shows you may or may

not remember – James Bond, The Avengers, I Spy, The Prisoner, Mission: Impossible

– but instead of making you the intrepid hero, you take on the role of the diabolical

villain. And when you think about it, that’s not so bad. You get a cool evil

base, evil henchmen, vast wealth, and hot sidekicks like Pussy

Galore
. (Author’s note: Dear readers, please exercise

great caution when searching the Internet for “Pussy Galore.”
)

There are three different Evil Geniuses to choose from: the deranged industrialist Maximilian, the deadly and beautiful heiress Alexis, or the mysterious and inscrutable Shen Yu. Your choice gives you a small bonus towards wealth, loyalty or global influence, but has no real effect on gameplay.

Of course, you don’t just magically start off with an evil underground lair.

You’ll have to build one, which is precisely what you do for most of Evil

Genius
. With a remote island as your canvas, you design the base of

your dreams and have your minions carve it out of the rock. Although you only

begin with a few different room types (corridors, barracks, training rooms),

you will eventually unlock the secrets to building sinister laboratories, control

rooms, and numerous diabolical traps.

The traps are really the hallmark of Evil Genius, from basic

pressure pads and gas traps to motion sensors and subterranean piranha tanks.

You’ll need them, too, because pesky secret agents will always be snooping around

looking to foil your nefarious schemes. The various world governments keep your

island practically crawling with spies and investigators depending on your global

notoriety and the level of “heat” you are currently attracting.

There

are several different types of agents, but they all behave essentially the same

way: they snoop around your island hideout looking for anything suspicious. Investigators

will take pictures of what they find, which will in

turn generate more heat. Saboteurs will try to blow up your base if they

find their way inside. Thieves will try to snag your ill-gotten plunder if they

can find it. Hey, if I went to the trouble of shrinking the Eiffel Tower and

stealing it, I’m not letting anyone steal it back. This island’s only big enough

for one.

And then there are the Super Agents, such as Mariana Mamba, who can seduce your

minions nearly as fast as she can kill them. Jet Chan, the kung-fu master,

can kill with a single blow and will wreak havoc in your secret base if he

finds his way in. In fact, the Super Agents are nearly unstoppable. It’s best

to mislead them with your more social minions and lure them away from your

base.

If you’re lucky, however, the agents will fall prey to your traps. By combining

different traps together in devious ways, you can really mess up an enemy agent

and gain bonus cash to boot. The problem is that you can’t really set traps in

your own base. As long as you keep your minions alert by keeping the base well

stocked, they’ll usually know not to set off traps, but when agents sneak into

your base and set them off, it’s likely some of your nearby minions will get

caught as well. The best way to deal with this is to build a second false base

with nothing in it but traps. That’s just not much fun and your minions are

always running over to the false base anyway to clean stuff up and fix things,

which they do entirely on their own.

While Evil Genius appears on the surface to be a standard RTS,

it doesn’t play that way. It’s much more like Dungeon

Keeper
or Majesty. You cannot order you minions

around; all you can do is provide them with ideal evil working conditions and

they go about their own business of eating, training, researching, etc. You

simply sit back behind your impressive evil desk and order things built. You

can also “tag” any agent for death, distraction, or capture, and when a minion

happens to run across them, they’ll try to do your bidding.

There

are several different types of minions too, in three main categories: combat,

research, and social. In order to train a basic worker up to a higher position,

you’ll need

to kidnap a victim with the appropriate skills and torture them for information.

(There are tons of ways to torture people; this was clearly given a lot of thought.)

Once you have, say, a mercenary and the appropriate training facility, your

mercenary can train your guards to become mercenaries themselves. Lose all your

mercenaries, though, and you’ll have to kidnap and torture someone else to start

the process again.

Unfortunately, this training scheme often leads to having to reload a saved game.

One of your social minions, the Valet, is the only one capable of putting out

fires. Every once in a while a group of skilled agents or a Super Agent will

cause a little destruction to something you own somewhere, and your Valets

will all run there to put out the fire only to be slaughtered mercilessly,

leaving you with no Valets, no way to train more, and a fire only they can

put out. And you can’t send in any combat minions to support them because you

can’t actually

order them to go anywhere. You feel cheated because despite having

not made any mistakes, a random event can ruin your base and force a restart.

The only units you can actually order around are your henchmen. They each have

distinct personalities and powers, like Lord Kane, who can make your enemies

cower in fear, or the scientist Dr. Neurocide, who can reduce the amount of

time required to complete missions. It’s a shame your henchmen are so vulnerable

to Super Agents, though, and suffer permanent death at their hands. You’ll

wind up afraid to use them.

And what would world domination be without a world to dominate? You’ll frequently

switch to the global map to send minions out on missions, like kidnapping a skilled

person to gain a new minion type, or stealing an ancient sarcophagus from a museum

in Cairo, or just generally being naughty to gain cash. Unfortunately, this is

one of the weakest parts of Evil Genius because you don’t actually

get to do anything. A particular mission may require four workers, two

guards and a scientist, so all you do is assign them the job, toss in a few

extra support people to make sure it goes smoothly, and then a timer ticks down

and three minutes later, it’s

done. I wanted to actually break into that museum myself and have my minions

succeed or fail with at least a little interaction.

What

it lacks in interaction, though, it more than makes up for in style. The graphics

are great. Everything in the game, right down to each and every menu screen,

is a perfect riff on the 60’s spy theme. Zoom in on your criminal mastermind

and watch him rub his hands in fiendish delight while you torture some poor agents

by dipping them in huge vats of green liquid. Evil Genius scores style points

at every turn.

The only thing better is the sound. Evil Genius has some of

the best video game music I’ve ever heard, and again, a spot-on parody of old

spy soundtracks. Full symphony orchestras power out the main themes, while jazz

bands have great fun with the old-school music they used to play while Mr.

Bond was picking a lock. Perfect, just perfect.

Unfortunately, you’ll find little else to bring you back to this killer world

once you’re

done with it. You spend a lot of time working with the same base because you

only play on two islands throughout the whole game. There is no multiplayer

whatsoever, so once you’re done there’s no reason to do it again except to hear

the awesome soundtrack. The game grows repetitive as you slowly build resources

only to have your minions moronically stroll to their deaths, thus making you

go back and replay the last ten minutes.

Still, Evil Genius is the rare success of style over substance. It has everything an Austin

Powers
movie offers, but draws it out over twenty hours instead of two. There are sparks of genuine delight that make you wish the game was balanced better. In the end, Evil

Genius
left me well shaken, but not stirred.

 

REVOLUTION REPORT CARD

Rating7