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!”
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,
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.
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
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
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.
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,
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
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.
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
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.