21 Jan

Evil Genius

Filed under: PC Games 2 Responses

My Evil Genius gloating as a Super Agent is tortured.

I don’t really recall why, but I didn’t pick up Evil Genius when it was first released in 2004. It should be a game that I’d like but it did have pretty mixed reviews. Then in 2008, Rock, Paper, Shotgun did a retrospective on it that I never quite forgot. So when it went on sale on Steam a few months back, I snagged it thinking that I’ll check out this old game for a few days or so. I ended up spending more than two weeks on it.

This is basically a Dungeon Keeper game with an Austin Powers theme. You’re an evil genius who has set up a secret base on a remote island and your objective is nothing less than world domination. You send out minions all over the world to perform Acts of Infamy, which raises your Notoriety and unlocks new stuff for your base, as well as steal cash. At the same time, the authorities will try to send investigators and special agents to check out what you’re up to and will attack when they get evidence that you’re up to no good, so you need to set up your base to fend them off or kill them. My thoughts:

  • As RPS noted, due to the cartoonish art style, the game’s graphics have aged far more gracefully than most other games from that era. The sheer variety of the animations is also impressive, though perhaps a bit over the top. When a minion takes medicine from a pharmacy booth to heal for example, they gag and have their eyes bug out before falling over as if dead, only to get back up immediately.
  • The user interface and control scheme is frustrating. You can’t control your minions directly except for your henchmen, which makes sense, but the game needs to give you more tools to manage them. It would be nice if your avatar and henchmen could call only soldier minions or only social minions to them instead of calling everyone in the vicinity.
  • There’s way too much micromanagement. You basically need to babysit enemy agents and tag them manually when needed. You even need to keep a close eye on your own minions out in the wild. The game doesn’t see it fit to give you an alert when an Agent of Justice shows up in a region you have minions. It’s a bit silly to have such an elaborate security system (involving cameras, alert loudspeakers and cameras) but not have the ability to tell certain cameras to give an automatic tag to any intruders they see.
  • The game is generally too slow. Your minions take a long time to build and buy stuff for your base. Gathering money out in the world is slow and tedious. It’s no wonder that so many players simply use cheatcodes to get money in this game. There’s no challenge in it. You just need to send minions out, wait and watch out for Agents of Justice.

I’ve found that elaborate mazes like this with lots of ways is a far better way to keep annoying agents out than lethal traps.

All that makes it sound like I’m really down on the game though. So here are the good points:

  • Base-building is fun! A proper base needs defenses, a control room from which to oversee your evil plots around the world, a power room, training rooms to get upgraded minions, a research laboratory to get better items and different types of rooms for your minions to recover depleted stats. There are lots of items to place in each room too, so it almost feels like playing The Sims.
  • Building traps and mazes for agents is fun and there’s a huge variety of traps available! You can drop agents into a tank full of piranhas (not sharks but piranhas are good too), burn them with fire, shred them with chainsaw blades and much, much more. Unfortunately, I’ve found that traps, especially lethal ones, aren’t terrible effective, especially cost-wise. Soldiers and super-agents will shoot at the sensors, set them on fire and before you know it, you’ll have a chain of explosions all over your base.
  • I’ve found that the best way to deal with pesky agents is to build lots of confusing corridors and doors that go nowhere. Most of the time, the agents will take so much time going through the maze that they won’t reach the sensitive parts of the base and simply go home in frustration. When I do use trap, I like to use the non-lethal ones, such as the Pop-Up Trap when does nothing but cause a target dummy to pop up, which the agents like to shoot at. This confuses them and drains their smarts.
  • Super-agents are a whole different story, but generally I prefer to use social minions to wear these down as much as possible. The worst is Jet Chan, obviously modelled after Bruce Lee and named after both Jackie Chan and Jet Lee. He’s capable of killing anyone is one punch and attacks soldier minions even though he has no heat. When necessary, I use a henchman exploit to freeze him in place for long enough so that my minions can beat him unconscious.

Still, I couldn’t put up with the slow pace and interface problems long enough to finish it. It would be great if someone updated it to a more modern form. I think I’d prefer it if the game had you building a new base for each scenario as it’d make it easier to learn and let you experiment with more designs to achieve objectives. In this game, you basically only build two bases throughout the whole game. And please fix the game so you can do stuff faster and get rid of the pointless micromanagement.

Social minions talk to visiting agents, confusing them and discouraging them from poking into your base without causing them any lasting harm.
Written on January 21 2011 and is filed under PC Games. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “Evil Genius”


I found the world map screen and the whole placing your agents on the map to be unnecessary. I didn’t find that fun at all.

One word…Tourist and their nosey ways! They always manage to find a dead body here, or a torture chamber and run out screaming. I’d have to kill them. Hehehehe


Yeah, the map screen stuff was stupid work. I didn’t know what to make of the tourists. Most of the time, they would wander into the base and then panic immediately, not because they saw something suspicious, but because they found themselves locked in. Even when they’re panicking, I’m not sure what it is that happens. Nearby agents don’t seem to get heat around panicking tourists. Sometimes a tourist will get locked in so long that they die of starvation and become a body bag.

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