The first Evil Genius came out in 2004 and was made by veterans of Bullfrog, so it wasn’t a surprise that it ended up feeling like Dungeon Keeper via Ernst Stavro Blofeld. It was highly imaginativ­e and regularly hilarious but also tough as nails and more than a little micromanag­e-y. This was a shame, as the concept was a wonderful idea for a videogame — play a James Bond villain trying to conquer the world with insane schemes while fending off secret agents with elaborate death traps.

The idea was fantastic, but the execution was a little off (like most Bond villain plots) so all Evil Genius needed was a sequel that took all the original's greatness and made it a little easier to actually get through to the fun stuff. Sixteen years later Evil Genius 2 is finally here from new developer/ publisher Rebellion, which isn't really known for strategy games — so will it come up to scratch or will it fall into a tank of lase guided sharks?

Starting is pretty straightfo­rward. You pick one of four mastermind­s and an island lair location. Each island has pros and cons but the supervilla­ins have very little between them, and it would've been really nice to see some bigger positives and actual drawbacks to each genius — maybe even an RPG-style character creator, or a Fallout-style Perks system? Seems like a real missed opportunit­y.

Regardless, you get to your island and start the tutorial, learning all the basics of minion management, different types of employees like guards and valets (for the fake tourist front), dealing with spies, all the different room types, raiding the world map, putting down traps… I must've been four hours into Evil Genius 2 before I realised that the tutorials weren't ending, they were expanding. The game teaches you how to use or take care of every single thing — although it does forget to tell you how to do a few important things, such as how to hire minions.


Neverthele­ss, it was a big shock when I found out that there wasn't going to be another level. Unlike other management games such as Two Point Hospital, Tropico, Dungeon Keeper, and even the original Evil Genius, you stay in the tutorial level for the entire game. I have mixed feelings about that. On one hand it's nice not to be forced to abandon your work, but on the other it robs the game of a sense of progressio­n. Worse, those “example” rooms you set up as part of the tutorial become a hindrance very quickly, yet with how hectic things can get it becomes tricky to go back and sort them out.

In general though, mapping out your evil lair is simplicity itself, with enough added complicati­ons and useful upgrades to keep the base management side addictive. For example, you'll soon find yourself building colossal Power rooms to keep up with your lair's needs, until you discover more efficient reactors and can start rolling the rooms back. Control rooms and minion quarters likewise need to be huge, since you rely on specific items in them to expand your world map range and get more minions. The UI is initially cluttered but soon begins to make sense — although I'm not sure it needed two pause buttons (especially when spacebar works better).

The Dungeon Keeper-like aspects of Evil Genius 2 remain the most fun parts of the game. Creating hallways full of elaborate death-traps and watching heroes walk into them is always hilarious, as is the option for your villain to execute minions to “inspire” the others. I do wish something more Bond-ish could be done with spies, however, like having your genius interrogat­e them themselves.

It's the various evil schemes you can send minions out to perform on the world map that are the biggest let down in Evil Genius 2. As you expand your global criminal network, you need to execute these schemes to get money or counteract the heat you've gained — too much heat will get more investigat­ors sent to you, or shut down an area until it cools. And that's it. That's all the world map is really — money and heat. There are complicati­ons and some fun story missions, but the actual schemes have no imaginatio­n. Even blasting the world with my superweapo­n

seemingly did very little.

Beyond that, everything just seems to take a long time, unnecessar­ily so. I don't mind schemes taking their time when they're running, but it can take ages just for minions to get to them — I once failed a time-sensitive mission because my minions inexplicab­ly failed to fly over in time. The same goes for building — you can map everything out, but minions have to build everything, which can take ages.

Ultimately though, what really sunk Evil Genius 2 (and why I didn't get anywhere near the enjoyment from it that I'd hoped) is something I hinted at earlier: progressio­n. There's just nowhere significan­t to go. Yes, it's addictive stuff, and once you get around 10+ hours in and things start getting hectic, there's not really a dull moment, but… you're just doing the same things over and over again. Just to make things worse, the AI is extremely suspect. Minions will happily walk into death-traps while they're activated, whereas investigat­ors magically ignored the trap-filled hallway to nowhere I'd set up because it wasn't The Official Main Entrance.

Evil Genius 2 is a game I was desperate to love as it was exactly what I wanted: both a game where you play as a Bond villain and the chance to correct the mistakes of the original

Evil Genius. While it can be good, addictive fun a lot of the time, the sequel also makes all-new mistakes. There's very little sense of progressio­n, the evil schemes have little imaginatio­n or teeth, there's no chance for any real Bond-like scenarios, every action takes far too long, and no matter how action-packed it gets, it always feels like you're going through the motions — and that's a very bad feeling for a management game.

Sadly then, Evil Genius 2 isn't the main villain of this movie — it's the minor henchperso­n who gets offed by Bond before the opening title sequence.

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 ??  ?? Below: The evil empire has reached the disco phase of the global domination plan.
Below: The evil empire has reached the disco phase of the global domination plan.
 ??  ?? Left: Volcano Lair — Check, Vasectomis­ing Laser — Check, Colour-cordinated henchmen outfits — Check.
Left: Volcano Lair — Check, Vasectomis­ing Laser — Check, Colour-cordinated henchmen outfits — Check.
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That is most certainly going to leave a mark.
Above: That is most certainly going to leave a mark.
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