Evil Genius 2 - Not so Bright, But We Love it Anyway
Xbox Series/One, PS4/5
Have you ever wanted to build a secret lair, run your own crime syndicate around the globe and rain havoc on your fellow man? Do you find other strategy games too easy? Do you want something that’ll stretch your patience and mental capacity to the brink – but also make you laugh out loud? Then oh boy do I have the game for you.
Evil Genius 2 is the sequel to the much loved Evil Genius (though it doesn’t take a Genius to figure that out), which came out in the early 2000’s. Inspired by some of the greatest spy stories ever told, this series took our beloved spy heroes and had us build a lair to destroy them all – because sometimes the bad guys need a win.
This title delivers a variety of victories for our host of criminal masterminds, but not without its share of downfalls. My time with this game was mostly enjoyed, but there were definitely moments where I realised why all the movies see the good guys winning – because sometimes controlling the bad guys becomes a goddamn pain in the ass.
I played this game on PS5 – granted it’s not normally how I’d like to play a strategy game, but it worked just fine for Command & Conquer and Theme Hospital back in the day, so I thought ‘how bad could it be?’. Oh boy. The menu – can we talk about the menu? Because there’s so much of it and the tutorial taught me almost nothing. There are so many icons down the bottom of my screen, and without the tutorial to tell me what they all meant, I was very lost. I kept losing power but couldn’t figure out why because I couldn’t figure out what icon meant ‘buy another generator, dummy’. I also struggled a lot with very simple things, like building rooms and placing doors. The game is very particular about where certain elements can be placed, and if you miss your helpful worker drone explaining this to you in the beginning you’re boned – because he won’t tell you again. The absence of tooltips was acutely felt during these moments, as a simple “a door needs to be placed in four open spaces” would have saved me yelling at my television screen in frustration.
There definitely were times where this game made me question what the heck was going on, but it was quickly forgiven when cutscenes started playing. The characters, voice acting and overall animation make for an incredibly entertaining jaunt into the world of crime and misdeeds. Every evil genius character (and there’s a few you’ll meet on your escapades) felt like they were straight out of a movie, and though the jokes were obvious and the acting hammy and over the top, it worked so well. Even the little worker drones, who play no real part in my grand scheme of world domination, were voiced excellently. And every single animation, from the way characters walk to how minions lug around huge oversized laser cannons to blast furniture into place, really showed how much care was taken in getting the look & feel of Evil Genius 2 just right.
Where this game excels, it does so with ease. Where it is good, it is very good. Unfortunately where the game falls down, it crashes through the earth in a meteoric cataclysm. But when it comes to destroying the world in this game, I don’t feel quite so bad, because the World Map they had me working with was a hot mess, and if I could have actually laid waste to it, I definitely would have.
The World Map is where you, as your evil mastermind, run your global schemes. You’re able to extend your reach of evil much further than the confines of your lair, and take part in side stories that have you doing missions in various locales around your tropical island base of operations. I was excited about these at first, as I welcomed any form of income, passive or not, however it became very obvious very quickly that this section of the game was not thought through to the extent you’d expect from an evil genius.
When a scheme has finished or runs into a roadblock, much like a stupid baby, it needs the most attention. And this is fine when you’ve only got one scheme running and can quickly duck into the world map and muddle your way to it through the obstacle course of the game UI, but when you’re trying to manage more than one scheme at a time, plus your base, plus your resources, plus trying to defend from those pesky spies, it starts to get a bit much. I kept being told by the game that my schemes needed attention, but at no point did it ever tell me which schemes needed attention; forcing me to check in with each one until I found what needed fixing. I’ve worked with bosses at tiny companies that don’t give their employees this much attention, so why the heck do I, as a global master of evil doings, have to waste my time fixing up schemes when I have a literal horde of minions to do this for me. It boggles the mind.
This game challenged my patience a lot, but it also challenged the stretch of my logical thinking. If you ask our editor Matt, he’ll tell you that stretching my brain isn’t that hard of a feat, but if we put aside the fact that he’s a jerk (Wait what??? – Ed), there’s no denying that Evil Genius 2 requires a lot of mental power in order to effectively manage your resources. As well as resource management, you have to keep an eye on your schemes (ugghhh) but also keep a lookout for enemy spies trying to break into your base and restore justice to the world – which we will have none of, thank you very much.
Thankfully there’s a variety of ways to keep the good guys from getting into your lair and mucking up your hours of evil. Some of these are simple, like the good old fashioned door (which, as I mentioned earlier, I struggled to even place at first, so big lot of good that did me). As you progress onwards you can research different types of defences to keep enemies out, but my absolute favourite one was the Casino Cover Operation. Much like something out of the movies, you’re able to use a casino as a cover for your evil doings. But unlike the movies where the spies subtly make their way in, creep past your defences and save the day, in Evil Genius 2 there’s a good chance they’ll gamble away their life savings and leave your Casino more destitute and broken than before they came in. And nobody with crippling debt on their mind can focus on something as trivial as saving the world, so it’s a great way to keep those would-be-do-gooders out of your way.
Though Evil Genius 2 has its downfalls, I still thoroughly enjoyed my time with it. For every sigh of frustration there was double the amount of laughter, and overall, the sheer ridiculousness of this game and the fun I had experiencing it is what I’ll be taking away from it. Every game has its flaws upon release, but not many games are able to offer the unique coupling of entertainment, laughter and critical thinking that Evil Genius 2 delivers.
Evil Genius 2 was reviewed on the PS5 with code kindly supplied by 5 Star Games.