So many players devoted countless hours of time into Evil Genius since it’s initial launch back in 2004. It was a fresh and fun take on the management genre. It took a tongue in cheek view to the 60s-70s world of spy fiction and put you in control of an evil lair, with all the tools they needed to take over the world one evil scheme at a time. Now, as we move into 2021, Rebellion — known for the Sniper Elite Series — is reviving the franchise with Evil Genius 2, and after spending a few hours with it, I am more excited than ever to dive back to see how I can once again become the ultimate criminal mastermind.
If you have ever enjoyed games such as Dungeon Keeper, Theme Park or of course, the first instalment in the Evil Genius franchise, you will feel right at home with Evil Genius 2. The preview build I got to play only consisted of a few hours of tutorial, which offered a taste at what the full game would offer. But even with this, the attention to detail and reverence for the franchise is apparent through every feature on display. The graphics, while modern, are a distinct call-back to Evil Genius, giving the game a cartoon-like flair while still looking sharp and striking on modern systems. The design and overall sense of James Bond-like spy-fare takes the best of what was on offer back in 2004 and gives it a fresh coat of paint, making everything feel more alive and fun.
It is fantastic to see the sense of enjoyment that ran through the first game is also still present. It can be hard to find a balance between fun and challenging, but the team at Rebellion managed it, delivering a clear feeling of joy and humour in all aspects of the game. As you build out your lair and slowly unlock new rooms and skills, the scope and potential of the experience gradually takes shape. Offering clever and lighthearted vignettes of what these criminal masterminds want and are willing to do to achieve that objective, I found myself completely drawn into Evil Genius 2, even with the small snapshot of the final game.
Jumping into the experience you will quickly find all the aspects that are involved with keeping your evil lair running smoothly. It seems being a leader of a shadowy organization is similar to running any other enterprise. You will quickly find yourself sorting through the best henchmen to add to your team, building vaults, and planning the most effective way to earn cash to keep the whole process moving forward.
As the game progresses, the scope and potential available to players is made out into focus. While this is a game that could easily be sat down and played for an hour or two, Evil Genius 2 will eat up countless nights filled with shaping the perfect base and plotting “just one more mission”. There is such a scope of available options from enjoying the campaign, jumping into side missions, or even simply crafting the most diabolical lair in a sandbox, you will not be at a loss for things to do.
But thankfully the game keeps you on your toes, forcing players to adapt to the unexpected. From random fires and accidents flaring up with little warning, to agents finding their way into your base, to missions that demand your immediate attention, Evil Genius 2 has found a devious way to keep the gameplay loop fresh while sucking away all the free minutes you can afford to put into the experience.
With a world map filled with regions to expand your evil organization into and a wide array of missions and schemes to keep you busy, there is always something to bring in the funds to keep the base building bliss moving forward, ensuring that the joy you garner from the creation of a successful lair is equally rewarded. From training rooms, labs, and even the cover Casino business, it all needs to be maintained and balanced in order for your evilly masterminded empire to come to fruition.
But, as with any classic management game, there will be plenty of busywork to keep you pinned to your chair. As you expand your reach, there will be more threats and more research to be done to overcome the onslaught of obstacles. You will find yourself constantly training new scientists, guards, or workers as you work to defend against ever more difficult intruders and problems. While most of it is exciting and fun, it is easy to see how this is a genre that has found a home on mobile devices. There will be many hours of waiting for different aspects to finish, or minions to be ready, or even just missions to unlock based on arbitrary numbers. Even when things are going smoothly you can easily run out of money, space or even power. It is the nature of the experience, but for anyone not used to this sort of gameplay loop, it can get tedious.
Evil Genius 2 feels very much a game out of the late 90s era of design. While it has been co-opted by countless free-to-play phone games, it used to be dominated by titles like Evil Genius. The genre is stacked with games that give you all the tools possible, a busy UI, an objective, and lets the player find their own way as they fixate on the best way forward. And with so many people used to these sorts of offerings on mobile, it could be the perfect entry point to a new generation of armchair evil masterminds, without the need for a credit card to speed up the process.
If watching a base slowly take shape as you lord over it like a villainous 60s-themed god with just enough humour to never let the game get stale is your cup of tea, Evil Genius 2 is the game for you. It takes what countless players enjoyed back in the early 00s but gives it new life, delivering a fresh fun take on the classic genre.