You’re evil, in possession of an abnormally high intellect, and you want everyone to recognise this and give you presents for it. Starting as little more than a humble dealer in human suffering, you gradually work your way up the ladder of crime until you find yourself squatting in your subterranean base, considering how deep inside the volcano to build your doomsday device.
Not an auspicious goal, admittedly – no one likes being told they share a life plan with Ming the Merciless – but one that’s easy to grasp. Like the world. Between your cruel, talon-nailed fingers.
Evil Genius is about what you’d expect from the name, only slightly more ridiculous. You pick one of three potential dictators and get down to the business of Owning Everything, Ever. Along the way you tangle with white hat organisations and their secret agents, most of whom are only slightly more incompetent than most of your employees, and all of whom will be ground beneath your heel[¹].
And…that’s pretty much the game. You build your underground fortresses, steal from foreign countries, and deal death to all who oppose you. Throw in an spot of light torture if you’ve got a few prisoners around, and that’s a day at Chez Massacrer. It’s never going to win awards for changing the face of gaming as we know it, but as a toy to while away an afternoon it’s pretty fucking good.
Which isn’t to say the game is without its problems – deadly traps will look the other way and whistle while an Agent walks straight over them, then activate the moment one of your Minions sneezes in the next room. Some of the controls aren’t brilliantly responsive. Your underlings will persist in letting Agents into the room full of body bags.
(Fortunately, your average Agent is helpless in the face of a backrub or quick shoe-shining. And no, neither of those are euphemisms.)
Despite these shortcomings, it’s almost offensively charming. It’s a B-movie flavoured meringue of a game; all fluff and sweet, instant gratification.
¹ Which you will begin to feel terrible about, as your average Agent isn’t bright enough to recognise a corpse until they’re standing on it, and it’s clear that their superiors are just using them to clog the tracks of your death machine until James Bond shows up.