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Evil Genius PC CD-ROM Official Website

Published by Vivendi Universal Games
Developed by Elixir Studios Limited
Release Date : Out Now
Price : £34.99

It's not often that games have a certain charm about them. The ability to attract you even though you might not know what the game is about is a quality that is all but extinct in these days of excessive sequels and mediocre games that are hyped to the extreme. Evil Genius then really stands out because from the way the game plays right down to the packaging the game has charm in abundance. Of course there are many games out there now where being evil is the main theme of the game but no other game allows you to be an evil mastermind and have a crack at world domination in such a fashion.

In Evil Genius there's no campaign or stand alone missions you simply create a new game and get on with the job of trying to fulfil your dreams of world domination. You'll start the game by picking your avatar, an evil genius who you want to control. You'll have the choice of Maximilian, a short, overweight bald guy in a blue suit who looks like he walked straight out of an Austin Powers movie; Alexis the adorable multi-millionaire heiress or Shen Yu the quixotic oriental super criminal. After you've chose one and selected the easy, normal or hard difficulty level you'll head off to a deserted island to create your headquarters from which you can carry out your evil plans. Essentially your main priorities are wealth and notoriety. Once you've created a control room that's fully equipped and operating you'll be able to use the World Domination screen to steal and commit acts of infamy (such as kidnapping knowledgeable minions, and recruiting henchmen). Your minions and henchmen can be set to steal, plot and hide in your chosen location. Your actions will not only gain you money and notoriety they will also attract heat. The higher your heat rating in a region the more likely you'll be the target of enemy agents so when things become a little sticky, it's best to lie low and let things cool.

Perhaps the most crucial aspect of Evil Genius is getting your base right. You, or rather your minions, will have to carve corridors and rooms out of rock in order to create your underground base. This part is straightforward but you'll also have to place traps and make it difficult for enemy agents to penetrate your defences. The base building part of Evil Genius is great fun and it's very easy to build rooms and place corridors etc. The trick is, as we've just said, making it difficult for enemy agents to enter. Numerous traps can be placed, so placing the more important rooms in places where numerous traps have to be negotiated is always a sound precaution although clever enemy agents can tackle these traps and you'll often have to tag them (make them a target for your henchmen/minions) in order to take them out. Thankfully you do have the ability to setup a surveillance network but it takes some practice to have everything running at maximum efficiency. Security is not your only concern though and research must also be carried out and rather interestingly this can result in you having access to some experimental apparatus such as Bio-Tanks and an AI Supercomputer, which can prove useful.

It's not all about base building though and money and notoriety are earned on the World Domination map. The World Domination map looks like a basic board game with you clicking on a location and then choosing a henchman and/or minion to go there. In truth the World Domination map aspect of Evil Genius could have been better and could certainly have offered a lot more variation in it's objectives. You'll also have to train your minions into different types (as well as order more of them as your headquarters needs more of them). Minions have their own attributes and keeping them happy is an important part of keeping everything running smoothly. Minions can also defect if they are not happy with your treatment of them. Minions aren't under your direct control like your avatar and henchmen and simply respond to your orders. Unfortunately though you'll find that Minion AI is not as good as it should be at times and occasionally you'll have to manually tag enemies that they should really target of their own accord.

Graphically Evil Genius is certainly one of the most detailed RTS we've seen this year and it's certainly got a lot of style. The visuals fit in with the theme of the game very nicely indeed. Each of the three evil geniuses that you can choose to play as (and the numerous henchmen that are in the game) look great and it's a fair bet that you'll probably recognise the movie characters that most of them have been based on. The games characters have some humorous animations too, which feels like a breath of fresh air because so many RTS games seem to use the same animations. Building a room means you will have to use dynamite to blow the space out of the rock and in this space your room will magically appear. As Evil Genius is mostly in 3D you'll be able to zoom right in on your minions and even up close they still look good. In contrast though the World Domination map is rather disappointing in it's appearance and could have been so much better. 17" (and 19") TFT owners will also notice a glitch that changes your screen resolution every time you start a game. Having set the resolution to 1280x1024 it proved a constant niggle for the game to default to 1280x960 every time I loaded the game. It's not a major gripe though but one that should be fixed.

The biggest disappointment with Evil Genius is not how the game plays (it's very enjoyable in fact and a great way to pass a few hours away very quickly) but it's lack of consideration for deaf gamers. The game introduction is not subtitled which is disappointing as it sets the humorous tone for the game (although it's not really important). Throughout the game you'll see plenty of video hints (small demonstration video clips that help to explain certain game functions) and these are not subtitled. The game tutorial is also not subtitled but at least you'll get barebones information in text and the buttons you'll need to press are highlighted with a green circle, which will give you some idea of what to do. Objectives are shown in text and can be recalled. You'll also be notified in text when new objectives have been given. Some messages will appear in text on the message bar on the lower part of the screen and some of these are hyperlinked to other information. Also there is an in-game glossary (all in text) which can be helpful. Enemies and civilians are colour coded on your radar so you'll be able to see when uninvited guests arrive. Overall it's by no means a disaster for deaf gamers but even given the text information that's available it's still disappointing that there are elements that are not subtitled. The game manual contains around 30 pages and the information provided is very useful, so one way or another you should be able to find what you need to know.

Evil Genius is one of those games where it's tricky to compare it with another game out there. It's kind of a cross between Theme Hospital and No One Lives Forever but some will recognise elements of Dungeon Keeper there too. Whatever the game reminds you of, it doesn't really matter as Evil Genius is hugely enjoyable and can easily swallow up the hours as you get absorbed in the game. There are some limitations though such as there being no multiplayer component in the game, which could have made things very interesting as well as given the game extra replay value. I would also have liked to have been able to create my own evil genius and set their advantages and disadvantages which could have opened up numerous strategic options. In the early phase of the game, objectives seem to come thick and fast but the more you play the objectives will become few and far between with the mid to end game being a case of monitoring your heat level which can be less than exciting. More could have been added to the World Domination mode too but on the whole it's still an enjoyable game. It's disappointing that the game isn't 100% deaf gamer friendly but Elixir have included just about enough text information for deaf gamers to be able to play the game without any real problems, so it's not all bad news. If you were at all impressed by games such as Theme Hospital or Dungeon Keeper then you owe it to yourself to give Evil Genius a go because there hasn't been a game like this for years.

Overall Game Rating: 7.5/10
Evil Genius, although enjoyable, could have been better with a few additions and a more comprehensive World Domination mode. It would have also been good to have seen a multiplayer mode.

Deaf Gamers comment:
Could have done with subtitles in some key areas but thankfully with what is in text, the game can still be enjoyed.