Overlord might seem like an ideal fit for the Wii, with its cutesy graphics and lovable minions, but under its niceness lies a game packed full with evil intent. Far from being a game for the kiddies, with Overlord: Dark Legend Codemasters has attempted to create a game for the Wii's hardcore gaming audience and hasn't pandered to casuals' demand for mini-games and simplified control schemes. Despite a few control quirks and a difficulty level that would only challenge a complete novice, the end result is a game that all serious Wii owners should take a look at.
Instead of taking the easy option and simply porting over the original Overlord or the sequel, developer Climax chose to make an entirely unique game for the Wii. This means the story is brand new, the controls are built for the Wii Remote and Nunchuck, and the presentation doesn't suffer from the normal multiplatform issues Wii owners have had to put up with since the console launched.
Rather than starting you out as a fully fledged Overlord, Dark Legend begins with you playing as a fresh-faced 16-year-old who is discovering his evil powers for the first time. Minion Master and possible Dark Crystal star Gnarl is always on hand to offer some advice, and the opening hour or so sees you getting to grips with basic minion control. As in the original game you can command a small army of imp-like underlings who will do your bidding, no matter how evil. As well as pointing them directly at something to attack or interact with, you can sweep them around the environment in order to cross obstacles or reach distant items.
This minion control, combined with the Overlord's basic hack 'n' slash melee combat is the game in a nutshell. What makes it more than just a very simplistic RTS is four different minion classes and the game's wicked sense of humour. You begin with Browns, the most basic minion type that's only really good for brute force labour and good old-fashioned scrapping. Soon enough, though, you'll gain access to Reds, a breed that can throw fire and act as firemen of sorts if flames block your path. Next up are Blues, which can swim and heal, and lastly are Greens, which specialise in stealth and surviving toxic gas.
While four minion types might not seem like much, when you've got access to them all and are changing between them on the fly with the Wii Remote's d-pad, there's quite a lot to get your head around. Add in command point placement, sacrificing minions for Overlord health and general resource gathering, and you've got a pretty competent RTS on a console. As entertaining as the game's missions are, it's the humour that will win over many gamers. You'll be able to breeze through most of the game, but the constant tongue-in-cheek humour will keep you hooked.
As well as the general ease at which you'll stroll through the campaign, Dark Legend fails to capitalise on a few of its other unique features. The minion choke, a move talked about quite a lot during the preview stages, is little more than an infrequently used comedy move that makes the released minion explode, taking out any barrier that stands in your way. The Overlord's magic is also largely pointless, and the armour upgrading feels pretty tacked on given that it's so easy to buy it all with your bountiful cash supply.
It's hard to shake the feeling that Codemasters has landed somewhere between two stones with Dark Legend. The game has none of the usual features casual gamers would expect, but then it's so easy that anyone with any real gaming experience will barely raise a sweat. The fact that minion stocks are always ridiculously high means that there is rarely a time that you'll suffer for sending in some minions unprepared - you can just summon some more from the portals and get back to it.
Given that Overlord's visual style relies on bright colours and almost cartoon-like character models, the series' move from next-gen to Wii has gone smoother than you might think. For the most part it's a fine looking game, with the lush surroundings making for a game that will often make you question some of the shovelware you've been playing on the Wii for the past few years. Sadly it's not all rosy though, with certain areas looking far better than others and the frame rate frequently takes a severe nose dive. The minion count is also capped at 25, which is half that of the original game; a slight shame, but it clearly helps performance and doesn't hurt the gameplay too much.
While Codemasters' Overlord II will be the evil doing choice for many, Dark Legend on Wii manages to be an extremely competent third-party offering. It's too easy and suffers from a few technical shortcomings, but the campaign is always fun and entertaining. As an intro to Overlord, Dark Legend does its job. Play it on Wii and then move on to the superior and altogether more challenging next-gen sequel.