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Evil Genius Review
publisher: Vivendi Games
developer: Elixir Studios
PIII 800, 128MB RAM, 300MB HDD, 16MB video card
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Sep 28, 04 (released)
|» All About Evil Genius on ActionTrip|
I've waited for a while to say this. Elixir Studios has become the first schizophrenic game development studio on the planet! Congrats, guys, I'm sure some new Sigmund Freud out there will psychoanalyze you in the coming years.
Now would be a good moment for any last wishes, if you have them.
When I said "Freeze!", I didn't mean it literally, No. 2.
In case you're not in the know, Elixir are the British blokes that developed Republic: The Revolution, a game with a decent concept that lacked somewhat in the execution department. Possibly the biggest drawback to Republic was that it wasn't nearly as fun as Elixir imagined it would be. The game turned out to be overly-complicated and confusing to the point that I *still* get e-mails from people asking me how to perform a specific action in it.
So in light of that, it was very surprising for me to indulge in a game like Evil Genius, a project that's fun and addictive, though still not intended for the casual gamer. In a nutshell, Evil Genius is a management/strategy genre-bender that pits you in the role of a 60's spy movies arch villain that looks and acts more like Dr. Evil than Goldfinger. (Even though one can argue that both characters are hilarious in their own right, but that's beside the point [Come on, Goldfinger had underling named Pussy Galore! - Ed]) This is above all a lighthearted spoof on the 60's spy movie memorabilia, with clear references to games like NOLF (for the obvious reasons) and an old Bullfrog title, Dungeon Keeper. This is not at all surprising given that Demis Hassabis, the head of Elixir Studios, used to work at Bullfrog with one Peter Molyneux. That former collaboration yielded one of the most original PC titles ever, in the form of Dungeon Keeper, a game in which, you - Horny (well now that you mention it, I do feel a bit randy. - Ed ((No, that was the demon's name in Dungeon Keeper, dumb ass)) Oh. - Ed) - were given an exclusive license to be bad and do nasty things to your imps. Now imagine such a concept placed in an Austin Powers-like setting and you've got Evil Genius.
In all honesty, Republic: The Revolution seemed kind of dry and really not that fun, so to make a game that's anything but in the span of several years shows that either Elixir learned a lot from their mistakes or they all have split personalities, thereby becoming the first schizophrenic game studio in existence.
Whatever the case may be the fact remains that I loved the characters in Evil Genius - all of them. From your Evil Genius to his henchmen and the minions, they are all beautifully animated and full of life. The game just has a great vibe and if you're in mood for a lighthearted management, you'll want to try this one. Make no mistake however, that Evil Genius is not an easy game to master. I remember I had to spend several hours with it just to learn all the basic concepts and most importantly to get proficient at it. This one is not for people with little free time on their hands. You need to sit down and learn how to play. And the funny thing is that even when you do eventually become good at it, the programmers will throw you a few curveballs and you'll need to spend even more time learning how to play ... properly.
Once again, Elixir hasn't done the best job of making a complex concept seem simplistic. No, sir, this one is complex no matter how you look at it, and I suspect there will be a lot of people who will either give up or constantly keep sending us e-mails about how to accomplish a certain task in the game. In Elixir's defense, they have included a boatload of tutorial videos and such, but they will only help you to a degree.
Essentially, your role as the Evil Genius is to conquer the world, and forces of good will try to prevent you from doing so by sending their top agents, thieves and infiltrators against you. You have this lair and you need to build upon it, so in a way, there are traces of The Sims integrated into the core game play. But there's more to it than that; you have to constantly keep switching between the world map and layer map, as well as the minion training and research screens. Learning to juggle all these duties won't be easy, so brace yourself for some active playing.
Sadly, Elixir didn't make any of this easy on us, as the way they describe mission goals is often incomplete, vague and downright confusing. The objectives will sometimes seem too general, and you'll have a hard time figuring out what is asked of you to do exactly. Like trying to build a doomsday machine and gathering vital pieces of data across the world map (or by interrogating agents) even though you don't know where to look or which agents to interrogate. In my case this lead to a lot of frustration and cussing and I'm guessing I won't be the only one with such problems.
But even despite all of this, I clocked in more time with this game in September than with any other game that came out save for maybe Rome: Total War. I like complex and engaging management sims, and this is one such game. The best thing about it is that once you're comfortable with the basic and advanced game play concepts you'll find it to be very fun and addictive. So much so that I would literally spend hours and hours in numerous non-stop gaming sessions. For the life of me, I don't know why that is exactly. There are plenty of things that are frustrating about Evil Genius, but Elixir must've gotten many things right too, as my wife had a hard time prying me away from the PC at about 3 AM each night.
8.4 Very Good
Fun, lighthearted and very addictive; great soundtrack, HUGE single-player, character animation and voice overs;
Vague and confusing objectives and game features, the micro-managing part can get too overwhelming at times, balancing issues with military minions, takes a lot of time and effort to get into.