Blast from the Past
World domination was stylishly hilarious in the 1960s-70s era of Evil Genius
It was Peter Molyneux and Bullfrog Productions that brought us the idea that it was ‘good to be bad’ with Dungeon Keeper, and it was Elixir Studios in late 2004 with Evil Genius that proved camp villainy really is just too good to miss out on as well.
Simply put, Evil Genius is a huge love letter to Dungeon Keeper but with its own unique spin. You don’t skulk in the dirt beneath a quant countryside, awaiting the forces of good to burrow down and strike at your damp torch-lit dungeon. In Evil Genius you proclaim a remote tropical island as your lair, and carve your way into the side of a mountain with big plans for the world, laughing maniacally.
It’s set during a vague 1960s – 70s timeline, which is perhaps one of the greatest decisions Elixir made because of the great aesthetics they get to work with. It embraces the earlier and more outlandish James Bond storylines such as Moonraker and Goldfinger. It relishes in the over-the-top scheming, uniformed minions, ridiculously sized lairs and pantomime villainy.
Beware agents of S.A.B.R.E , P.A.T.R.I.O.T, H.A.M.M.E.R, A.N.V.I.L and S.M.A.S.H
You’ll be planning your base through various blueprints as you unlock new technologies and rooms, dynamiting your way to a sprawling labyrinth of power plants, cantinas, barracks, research labs, shooting ranges, dojos, and of course security checkpoints, detention cells and traps.
Evil Genius took its love of traps to a whole other level because it encourages you to think up some real dastardly daisy-chain trap combos to foil agents from various spy agencies looking to undo our work. Of course our minions can get distracted and accidentally trigger them as well, or wandering tourists to the island get a little lost and are now laser beamed into a body bag. Whoops.
Minion management was the other big concern as we lurk deep within our secret island lair as our chosen Evil Genius. We have to make sure they get their needs seen to and that they aren’t falling over bodies of their now former compatriots, or even unwelcomed agents. Better build a bigger freezer to store those unsightly reminders of needing tighter security. We could also recruit special — and directly controllable — Henchmen that had their own unique abilities and set number of lives.
Is it an ‘act of infamy’ or a ‘humanitarian mission’ to destroy country music?
Sending out our (hopefully) capable minions to pull off heists of great art, shrinking world monuments or just to cause general mischief was the way to achieve our ultimate goal of world domination. This would of course draw the attention of the various different agencies that would step up their investigation of our little island, and mean we have to improvise new ways to thwart them. General worker minions aren’t so great at defence, but that’s what assault-rifled guards are for.
If you got too much attention then you could draw the deadly eye of the various super agents. Each axis of power had their own unique top super spy, which were modelled after iconic figures like James Bond and Rambo. They all had a big weakness to research and exploit though, as otherwise they were nearly unstoppable as they go on a rampage wiping out minions and blowing up the base.
It was a real dry humoured and campy real-time strategy sim that would slowly unfold more of its absurdities as you got bigger and more ambitious. Even researching new ideas in the game was about you just throwing objects together to see if your eggheads would come up with something new. Thankfully today’s owners of Evil Genius have done something similar because Rebellion is working on a sequel, and from what we’ve seen of the announcement trailer – there’s a whole new world in need of a scheming maniac.