Wednesday, 09 February 2005
Remember those spy thrillers in the ‘60’s? Well, considering the typical age demographic of today’s gamers, do you remember catching repeats of those 60’s spy thrillers on some obscure channel on Digital TV? You know the ones I mean, the secret base underneath a suitably evil appearing volcano on some out of the way island just off the coast of South America? The one where some cackling “evil genius” would stroke his usually over fed white cat whilst mocking the attempts of the do-gooders who invariably brought said evil genius to justice before the show was out? Well, it’s taken a fair old chunk of time, but Elixer Studios finally allow us to play out our evil fantasies as we attempt to complete construction of our doomsday device, and repel the forces of good.
It’s a simple concept alright. The ultimate aim is to purely become the most despicable human being on the face of the planet. To strike fear into the hearts of the entire globes population. And to possess the most well groomed cat of course. However, if it was a simple as laughing manically and coming up with more and more suitable taunts for the power of good, the current “rulers of the world” would be here to stay for a much longer period than we all hope for. Starting out assembling your secret lair, you plan out and design each and every room, and everything you wish to be placed and place. You then watch as your followers and henchmen carry out your dreams and build you something to be proud of.
Luckily enough even this area has been meticulously planned out be the game designers. Certain rooms only become available to build once a certain event has occurred. This means that there’s a constant stream of goodies for you to tack on to your base in order to build something as impressive as you possibly can to keep the James Bond-a-like government agents from breaking in and tearing your base to pieces. Your base needs all the training facilities you can muster to train up your basic grunts for any battles they get involved in. Plus they all need somewhere to sleep, so you can only have as many followers as you can fit into your ever expanding maze like base.
To help you along you have a variety of henchmen to carry out your most important of duties. While the low level serfs are never under your direct control (although the AI is well adept at keeping them busy, and hard at doing all your dirty work) the henchmen which you manage to recruit are totally under your control. These henchmen all have a different unique special ability, mainly in the guise of some kind of powerful attack to knock back the approaches of the good guys.
As an evil genius, your notoriety around the world is something that is of the very most importance. Undertaking missions which really terrify the general public by stealing a major landmark, or kidnapping their favourite pop star only increases your “popularity” and gives you more to play around with. It doesn’t end here however, as even your minions can become somewhat work shy at times, and here your real evil side can come into play. What’s the best way to give a real kick up the bottom of your workforce? Why, simply kill one of their work mates with a high degree of torture, and they’ll be ready to lick your boots within seconds. It’s simple, but definitely effective.
The aesthetic style is much in keeping with the games general intended affect, appearing somewhat as a stylised version of Bullfrogs much loved Dungeon Keeper series. The style of uniform of your basic grunts looks much as you’d expect, and everything just has this overall 60’s feel. Plus, the graphics are astonishingly uncluttered, as is the easy to use interface. The time spent developing Republic certainly gave Elixer Studios the experience to go one step higher when developing Evil Genius.
Unfortunately all is not good in the world of the anti-hero. The difficulty level is quite on the high side throughout the game for starters. Game objectives are rarely varied, and a bit of a stale feeling can come into play towards the end as you tire of expanding your base, and cringing as the next wave of hero manages to blow up one wing. Plus, when you send out “away teams”, it’s all too easy to leave your base under defended, and find yourself over-run in a matter of moments, with seemingly no way back from bitter defeat.
While there’s a heck of a lot to praise involved in Evil Genius, the flaws which I’ve made you well aware of do help detract from the overall experience of the game. The high difficulty level in particular manages to cause immense frustration as your intricately laid out plans are once again foiled and you’re forced to start all over again. However, despite taken purely as a strategy title this would be dismissed as generic, the astonishingly well thought out setting of the game helps turn it into something that you’d be hard pressed to neither enjoy, nor get a few giggles out of too. Elixer Studios have managed to do the concept justice, and that’s good enough for us. Now, let your evil side take control….