Everyone has an evil side. Some let that side out for all to see, but most like to keep it locked away. Videogames are a pretty safe area for your evil side to play. Games like Knights of the Old Republic and Fable let you chose your own moral path, but the little voice in your head is always telling you that you should be doing the right thing. Why can't your sole aim be, being evil? Why can't you be so evil that you have your own evil lair? An evil lair filled with evil minions. An evil lair filled with evil minions, evil super henchmen and a massive evil weapon. Have all that and more in Evil Genius from Elixir Studios. At the recent EGN event in London we sat down with the developers to look at the completed game.
The game plays similarly to other micro-management games such as Dungeon keeper and the "Theme" series. You chose from three evil geniuses and then set about building your underground base, secretly hidden on a tropical island. Building this base is very simple. Select a room type from a menu, click where you want to place it and drag out to set the size. Once you give confirmation to start building, your minions will exchange a suitcase of cash for some TNT and blow up the rock where you new room will be.
Each room has a specific set of objects that can be placed in them. A training room can have punch bags, firing ranges, research desks and other things to help minions better themselves. The armoury doubles as an Interrogation room, so while holding weapons also contains holding cells and a long list of possible interrogation (read as torture) devices. Basic interrogation chairs aren't much fun, but the more evil devices will have people talking in no time. Being dunked in a vat of acid isn't something you want repeating. The barracks require beds and lockers, the control room needs computer consoles and memory banks, and your evil genius's office can be beautifully decorated with customary large evil boardroom desk and desk.
Being an Evil Genius, you get a lot of interest from other corporations, all sending their own spies and mercenaries to infiltrate your base. Your base can be set to three levels of alert, the highest of which tells your minions to shoot enemy spies on site. Individual enemies can be selected and marked for death, or if you require their help (via interrogation), capture. Once in a while you will encounter a super spy. They have special skills and are far less vulnerable to your minion's attacks. Luckily you have some special henchmen yourself. One of these is Eli Barracuda. He is a white suit wearing, afro sporting evil guy. His special abilities are the Super Headshot and the Ghetto Posse. The Super headshot is pretty self explanatory and allows Eli to cause some serious damage with just one shot. The Ghetto Posse is perhaps the better ability. Eli gets his ghetto blaster out and pumps out some hypnotic tunes. Any enemies in the base start to involuntarily dance and become easy pickings for your minions. Other Henchmen have equally bizarre special abilities that they can use to help protect your base.
Your minions can train to have abilities of those people you have captured and interrogated. Capture a security guard and soon you will be making guard minions. A maid's skills let you create valet minions. Once you have these skills available you can mange how many minions of each type you want, but getting and training minion's costs money.
The world domination map is one of the most important parts of the game. It shows which organisations have what areas of the world and is how you send your minions out to do work for you. The most basic and important job is to steal money. The more minions you have in a zone, the more money you will collect. However, put too many minions in one zone and the organisations may spot you and kill your minions, forcing you to remove who is left or to put them into hiding.
In order to become known across the world, you must send out your minions to carry out acts of infamy. This is a double edged sword. The more infamous you become, the more henchmen will want to work with you, but you will also become a target for more and more spies, who will try and destroy your base.
Sabotage is a big problem, particularly in the control room as it runs the world domination map. To foil would be saboteurs you have an assortment of traps which you can set up. One particular trap we saw featured a rather elaborate series of magnets and a massive blow torch. It's not hard to figure out what damage that would do. Traps can be set up both inside and out of your base and can be tested by trap test dummies. These guys come in crates and walk straight into your newly built trap. Setting up new traps and testing them out provided much fun and is clearly an area of the game that has been given a lot of attention and no shortage of ideas from the developers.
In our short time with the game it was hard to get a full picture of what the game offers, but what we saw certainly looked a lot of fun. Little touches like how the minions seem to explode out of their old skin when they learn new abilities add to the fun look and feel of the game. While not looking spectacular the game oozes style. Each type of minion is lovingly created and all objects have an excellent attention to little details.
While the game isn't set for release until the start of October, an expansion pack is almost a certainty and Evil Genius 2 seems to be a possibility, depending on sales. At the moment the game is PC only, but we were told that the game is running on Xbox hardware. It appears that the games visual interface is the big problem when considering a port to a console. If the developers can port this successfully to the limited Xbox controller, an Xbox version of the game is very likely.
We are very much looking forward to getting some more time with the game to see how the fun premise holds up over prolonged play, so look for a full review of the game soon.