By Jaime Skelton (MissyS)
There’s an evil genius that lives in a dark corner inside each of us. Oh sure, you can convince yourself that you’re neither “evil” nor “genius,” but there’s still a part of us that loves to dream up dastardly deeds. So for those caught between the solidly reviewed Evil Genius – a Dungeon Keeper like simulation game focused on evil masterminds – and the eventual Evil Genius sequel, Evil Genius Online is a perfect placation.
Currently in closed beta, Evil Genius Online (aptly abbreviated EGO) follows the same premise of Evil Genius: you are an evil mastermind, and you must grow your wicked empire from simple beginnings into something truly dastardly. EGO builds on the common Facebook simulation structure: collect resources, craft more resources, and turn it all around into coin to do it again (only differently). Of course, an evil mastermind can’t do things alone: they need the help of minions and, perhaps, a few other friends.
Your first and most important acquaintance in EGO is Penny Foxworth, but don’t mistake this blonde with an up-do as a simple secretary. Penny serves as your primary contact and quest-giver, and comes pre-loaded with some witty snark and some clever ideas for managing your lair. Your additional contacts in game are your minions, voiceless randomly generated henchmen that will run about your lair with urgency as you assign tasks.
Evil Genius Online makes sure you “get” the evil in its title. Sure, you might not think much at first as you shoot down a few SABRE goons in the abandoned government silo you’re taking over (SABRE are “the good guys”) and clean up the body bags. But you might rethink just how heinous you can be when you realize you’re serving the meat you found in those body bags back up at the Burger Bar for your minions. Of course, there’s nothing like sending that minion off afterward to do a little vacuuming around your lair afterward. Or, you know, just killing him off if you decide you don’t like him anymore.
Dirty deeds range from the simple act of money laundering to causing city wide blackouts; from hacking a local celebrity (who doesn’t do that these days?) to bringing down the popular Internet site Grooble or hacking into Bram’s Poker – and really, that’s just the beginning of what you can do. Each task has a cost of resources and a substantial reward, and helps level up the minion that does the task – and many tasks are interrelated across your lair. When you’re bored and want an extra boost, you can go visit your friends’ lairs, causing mayhem like swapping clown fish into the piranha tank or gumming up the jaws of the sharks in their shark tank.
Everything is in your control in EGO, including your lair. Although the most basic structure of your lair is set for you to start, you can dig out and construct your lair as you’d like it. Each area you dig out is designated for a purpose – whether it’s to simply act as a hallway, or whether it serves as your tech lab, mess hall, or barracks. Each area has its own set of structures, which really helps give the lair a more realistic feel. And, if you’re feeling frisky, you can grab some paint and color some of your lair to let the artistic side of your genius show.
The main problem with Evil Genius Online is one common to most Facebook games: it follows a “hurry up and wait” mentality. Assign your minions, wait for tasks to be completed, come back to complete them, and repeat the process – with tasks getting progressively longer the better the rewards. If the pace is too slow for you, you can buy your way out with the game’s cash currency – but likely, you’ll hop to another game or just set a timer and come back later. Simulations, of course, aren’t ‘fast paced’ in nature, but if you want to be an evil genius on your own time, the Facebook format is probably going to frustrate you.
Despite that cripple in EGO’s pacing, the game’s rather fun. It’s not just the persistence of puns: it’s the subtle layers of depth that make it more than just another click-and-wait. You must manage the obedience levels of your minions, and may choose to kill off minions that have traits you don’t want or need for a boost of morale (we killed off ‘McFly’ early in our game, because his nervousness trait had him running away from our cursor every time we targeted him). While the quests in the game offer a steady “Here’s what to do next” tasks, the game isn’t so linear that you can’t break mold here or there and go after something that you can afford but haven’t been tasked with yet. Plus the game’s idle feature – which switches to rotating security camera views of your lair – makes a fun little screensaver.
While we’d still recommend playing Evil Genius and waiting for its successor, Evil Genius Online offers a nice casual visit for that mastermind that dwells in the corner of your brain. And if you haven’t played Evil Genius yet, EGO is a perfect tease of what you’re missing out on – so don’t be afraid of checking this one out when it becomes available to the public in the near future.