It was about the time I executed my first minion that I remembered Evil Genius 2 concerns itself with… yeah. Being evil. Its sprightly and bright presentation, effectively mimicking the stylistic flourishes of many a Bond parody (with superb music to back up the visuals) might lure you into thinking this is happy-go-lucky and, a lot of the time, it really is. Yes, you’re making plans to take over the world, but it’s all done in such a Planet Coaster-style way it’s easy to forget those aims are actually nefarious.
And then you torture someone to death.
Strategy games like the original Evil Genius and stablemates like Dungeon Keeper fell out of fashion a long time ago. Potentially even before Evil Genius’ release in 2004. So there’s a definite pang of nostalgia in being welcomed to your underground lair before ordering your dozens of minions to dig out rooms and populate them with all manner of beds, lockers, canteens, training equipment, and other items you need to keep an evil empire in good working order.
And while in Dungeon Keeper you might slap an imp to get them to dig faster, here in Evil Genius 2 you instead use the motivating, inspirational powers of your titular genius to make the workforce push that bit harder. And then you execute one of them in eyeshot of the others to re-establish dominance. It’s just that kind of game.
Objectives keep on coming, and outside of the aimless sandbox mode, you’re unlikely to run out of things to do for a long time. And with plenty of floors to build through, dozens of upgrades to research, and the forces of good trying to infiltrate your lair, it’s the sort of game that keeps you sat at the desk for hours.
You’re also unlikely to turn it off out of frustration: Evil Genius 2 isn’t a challenging game per se, more one that can present the odd temporary setback for you to overcome either by figuring out what you need to do and implementing it quickly, or by muddling through in a slightly longer amount of time. Honestly, my power plant was on fire for a long time before I remembered to put some fire extinguishers in the hallway, and it barely slowed down my conquest of Earth.
A sequel some 15-plus years in the making is never going to live up to the expectations of those who loved the first game, and it’s fair to say that’s the case here. But that’s reductive and, frankly, wrong-headed of me – because I enjoyed almost every second playing Evil Genius 2, and that’s something no amount of hand-wringing about removing some perceived ‘better’ complexities from the original game can take away.
This is a stylish and fun game that, while on a low rung of the challenge ladder, comes very much recommended as a lighter strategy title.
Training, weirdly. And the music, which is brilliant. The training mechanic initially seems a bit fiddly and micromanage-y, until it dawns on you that it’s a set-and-forget. You say how many of a certain profession you want, and the game will keep to that number so long as you have the bodies to spare. It’s smart, and effort-saving.
Taking over the world might be easy, but it’s still good fun.
Release:__ Out now