Everybody wants to rule the world
To be blunt, Tears for Fears got it wrong. I wouldn’t want to rule the world in its current state. It’s just too much hassle. Now if I could do it in the style of a James Bond villain, well, that’s a different story. Evil Genius Online helps you do just that, assembling an army of henchmen and an array of cool gizmos fit for global domination. It’s all done with a wink, helping elevate what is otherwise a pretty average social game experience.
If that opening paragraph gave you thoughts of Gru from the first Despicable Me or the Monarch from Venture Bros., you’re on the right track. That’s if you didn’t play the original Evil Genius, the PC game released back in 2004. In any case, Evil Genius Online gives you an abandoned government silo, an ambitious assistant named Penny Foxworth and a couple of Minions to get your career as a criminal mastermind underway.
Your path to power primarily begins by building your lair into something more impressive. That’s why the Minions are on hand, ready to perform tasks either by assigning them from a drop-down menu or simply clicking on a job to get one of them running. There’s no lack of things for them to do, including building new equipment, collecting income from things like money-laundering machines and using your super cool console to eavesdrop on people.
Like any game with builder elements, there’s a balancing act to perform between different resources. You may need special circuits from your fabricating machine to build a bug to listen in on a rival, or to collect from the soda machines (Minions need their caffeine too!) to finish off a quest. Unfortunately, this means a lot of waiting for various timers to complete, a staple mechanic of social games on Facebook from days gone by.
Minions can level up over time to gain various bonuses, and can even be specialized as Scientists or Guards with the help of one of your scarier machines. But making them perform too many unpleasant or difficult tasks reduces their Obedience level, and Minions with minds of their own are trouble. You’ll have to give them breaks in the Mess Hall or buy certain items to keep them happy.
Another important consideration is the Security level of your hideout, especially with the do-gooder spies from SABRE always threatening to drop in. Decorative items can keep Security high, and there’s just something inherently hilarious about the idea that enough cacti and posters can help distract from the obviously nefarious shark pit in the same room.
Friends can be added to your evil conglomerate (and they can be in-game friends only if you wish), though in keeping with the spirit of the game, you meddle with their bases when you visit instead of helping them. After all, there’s only one world to rule! The developers at Rebellion vowed they’d break away from some of the stereotypical aspects of Facebook games in Evil Genius Online, so it’s disappointing how early on you run into situations where you need to ask friends for items to get something done.
There’s another option, but it’s the obvious one: you can pay for premium currency to skip steps in missions or speed things up. This isn’t a game that hounds you for real money purchases, but the way the gameplay is structured certainly keeps them from ever being too far away from your mind.
Maybe you’ll find EGO (probably no coincidence, that acronym) funny enough that its mundane parts won’t bother you. There’s obvious humor in some of the characters, dialogue and situations, joined by more subtle stuff like the fact that rats and body bags produce Mystery Meat when cleaned up – a resource that just happens to be needed by the Burger Bar in the Mess Hall.
The art style reinforces the lighthearted tone, though the graphics are fairly detailed for a browser-based game. Going AFK long enough even starts switching views between various fictional security cameras in your lair, giving you a closer look at what those slacker Minions are doing. The soundtrack isn’t too shabby either, switching up decades but always staying with the old school spy movie vibe.
Alas, laughs and production values only get you so far. Evil Genius Online probably isn’t going to inspire another Dungeon Keeper flap among fans of the PC original, but it’s hard not be at least a little disappointed that Rebellion didn’t follow through on its promise to break more social gaming molds. As it turns out, ruling the world, even just the Facebook gaming world, is pretty tough.