Frustrated megalomaniacs take note – Evil Genius 2: World Domination will let you live out your Bond-villain fantasies in the safe space of a video game. With its tongue-in-cheek tone, it could be the backstory of Dr Evil from the Austin Powers films, providing you with a deserted tropical island from whose rock you must carve out a supervillain’s lair. You send minions out into the world to perpetrate misdeeds and, ultimately, build a doomsday device with which to hold the world to ransom.
Evil Genius 2 is very much a labour of love. The original 2004 game was the last one made by defunct developer Elixir Studios, before studio head Demis Hassabis headed off to eventually become Google’s artificial intelligence guru. Having picked up the rights, British developer Rebellion has opted to preserve the original game’s structure and general jokey vibe, but with modern slickness and scope.
A long, gently unfolding tutorial does a great job of explaining Evil Genius 2’s intricacies and showing the interactions between the various systems that underpin it. First, there’s the base, which you carve out room by room as your evil plans come closer to fruition, expanding it in order to generate an army of minions and henchmen with differing skills. The second theatre of operations is the global stage – a representation of the world split into territories like a Risk board, in which you establish criminal networks and your minions can execute schemes that generate gold, keep the authorities at bay, kidnap people with useful skills and acquire the resources to build your doomsday device. Meanwhile, your lair is invaded by waves of enemy agents, and it’s crucial to apprehend and torture them for intel.
Evil Genius 2 is huge, with four different villains (each with their own storyline), a fun array of traps such as shark tanks and man-eating plants to stud your base with, and a sandbox mode in which you can indulge your base-design sensibilities without restrictions. It’s a consistently amusing, fiendishly absorbing game that sucked me in so comprehensively that everyday life took a back seat. Base-building strategy games of this ilk were once ubiquitous; Evil Genius 2’s fun escapism and compelling play make for a great reintroduction.