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Review: 'Evil Genius' amuses with strategy, satire

By Marc Saltzman
Gannett News Service

Evil Genius
Build your underground lair -- and await the ultimate battle with secret agents -- in "Evil Genius."
'Evil Genius'

Platform: Windows

Genre: Strategy/simulation

Developer: Elixir Studios

Publisher: Vivendi Universal Games

Web Site: www.howevilareyou.com

Price: $49.99

Rating: 'T' for teen

Score: 4 stars out of 5

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(CNN) -- If you subscribe to the '80s duo Tears for Fears' classic lyric, "everybody wants to rule the world," and you like computer games, check out "Evil Genius," a new strategy game where you assume the role of a criminal mastermind bent on world domination.

Reminiscent of the "Austin Powers" movies, the game is a tongue-in-cheek spoof on campy '60s spy flicks, namely James Bond films with their over-the-top villains.

At the start of the game, you must choose to play as one of three malevolent megalomaniacs: Maximillian, who resembles a shorter and stockier Dr. Evil; Alexis, a sexy research scientist; or Shen Yu, a mysterious Chinese uber-criminal.

The first order of business is to build a secret underground base on an island. This lair will eventually house everything from holding cells with interrogation chairs and torture devices (for captured agents) to meeting rooms used to plot the next evil deed. You must use the computer's mouse to build each of these rooms and then line them with gear, provided you have enough money.

Some of the amusing objects to choose from include a brainwashing machine that literally washes brains, control panels with oversized reel-to-reel tapes and ping-pong tables to keep your workers happy. You can acquire most of this booty by successfully completing missions.

Planning capers

After the base is established, it's time to click on the world domination screen, a colorful map that you use to decide where to send your henchmen. Once deployed, your minions can steal valuable art, kidnap pop stars for ransom and recruit new henchmen (which might require breaking them out of prison).

These objectives must be performed without attracting too much "heat" or else governments will dispatch secret agents, investigators and soldiers to invade your base.

The "good guys" (plus a few thieves who want your loot) arrive on your island by boat, helicopter, parachute or scuba gear and will try to infiltrate your lair. You can dispatch your minions to take care of them by "tagging" enemies with instructions such as capture, weaken or kill.

Better yet, you have access to dozens of silly traps for unsuspecting intruders, including drop-down gas chambers and electrical currents that zap enemies into next week. It's also fun to watch your men try and fight super agents such as the martial arts expert, Jet Chan, or the Amazonian, Marlana Mamba, whose beauty can distract your band of villains.

Slow-downers

"Evil Genius" is a refreshingly different and clever game that has a hearty dose of personality, but its does have a few shortcomings.

For instance, some tasks such as building your base and instructing henchmen to return from overseas can take too long to complete. The wait may add to the strategy as you risk invasion, but there is no option to speed up the game play, a feature that's included in similar strategy games.

Also, while it includes a decent training scenario, "Evil Genius" can be challenging because lots of simultaneous micromanaging is required. Toggling between the various game screens also can get tedious.

Even with these shortcomings, "Evil Genius" is a fun and challenging game that should please strategy fans looking for something offbeat and fun.


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