Retro: Evil Genius

Whenever I mourn the passing of the Dungeon Keeper games and their much-neglected sub-genre – which I seem to do far too often, like some sort of blogging Miss Havisham – someone always chastises me for overlooking Evil Genius. I’m not overlooking it, I’m just not mentioning it.

It’s certainly the closest to a true follow-up DK’s ever had, coming from Bullfrog splinter cell Elixir and employing exactly the same Bad Guy Base-Building concept. Trouble is, in its clear desperation to not simply be Dungeon Keeper with Austin Powers artwork, it piled on layer after layer of complexity intended to mask its stolen heart. When I originally played it back in 2004, I couldn’t stand it. Genuinely loathed the thing, which very much put me at odds with most other reviewers.

Time, they say, heals all wounds. Which is a patently ridiculous thing to say, otherwise my granddad wouldn’t have been so annoyed about the toe he lost in the war. But it does at least mean I can now approach Evil Genius with a clear head, no longer clouded by sad dreams of DK3.

Here’s what it is, quickly. You’re the titular Evil Genius, a megalomaniac in the vein of 007 baddies at their most excessive. The game is the tale of how one of those ludicrous underground bases get built. You hire workers, you build barracks and eateries and prisons and giant frickin’ lasers, you earn cash from global crime, and you fend off incursions from snooping secret agents. It’s Theme Park with torture and fighting.

Looking at it now, one thing’s immediately apparent – it’s an amazingly good-looking game, dialling back detail in favour of cartoon stylisation in such a way that the passage of time has all but untouched it. While it owes much to Austin Powers (in direct references as well as the overall tone) and possibly No-One Lives Forever, it predates Team Fortress 2 in terms of exaggerated Norman Rockwell aesthetics. Evil Genius isn’t as tight (as later, less immediately distinct character types arrive the Man From U.N.C.L.E. vibe gets diluted into something vaguer) but now all that irritatingly ubiquitous Austinmania has subsided, its own character shines much more. You could almost drop its loading screens into TF2:

The animations are incredible, too. Obviously these are uber-scripted, cyclic routines, but when you can squeeze this kind of charm and subtlety out of a four-year old strategy game, Fallout 3’s spasming doll-men really do seem unforgivable. Valets (in the hotels designed to divert attention away from your evil lair) clean the bar and juggle cocktails while they wait for tourists; guards lean smugly against the wall as they watch captured agents undergo torture; invading burglars mime delighted surprise when they spot a valuable object… You see none of it unless you zoom in close, and that’s what makes it so delightful – there’s almost no reason for so many neat, charming little touches to be in the game, but they are anyway.

That said, there is one good reason for that much incidental detail. It’s something to do while you wait for the game. Evil Genius is ponderously slow. With no direct control over your minions, there’s nothing you can do if they’re too busy elsewhere or too stupid to finish building a room you’ve ordered, or to put out a fire that’s gradually claiming all the bunkbeds in the barracks. All you can do is wait. The game’ll get there when it’s good and ready. It’s not that the decision to make minions entirely autonomous is a bad one – you are, after all, the Evil Genius, not the Head Foreman – but it’s that what you get to do yourself is too insubstantial or too finickity to compensate.

Half the time, you’re waiting for cash to slowly dribble in from the global map so you can build /anything/, and the only way to speed that up is to send more of your minions over to another continent – which in turns involves waiting ages for a chopper to ferry ‘em there. Perhaps that’s the central problem – this is too much like the reality of running a criminal empire, and not enough like the fantasy of one. Not that I know what the reality of running a criminal empire is like, of course – at least not until we move on to RPS Stage II.. I just presume it involves a lot of paperwork and long-haul flights.

To bring in Dungeon Keeper – and I’m impressed with myself that it’s taken this long to do the “DK did x feature better” whine – it really hits the centre ground between too much and not enough power. Most of the time, you feel like you’ve got the upper hand, both in terms of economy and of enemies. Here though, you’re generally either penniless and frustrated because you have to painstakingly build not just rooms but every item within that room, or bored: artificial tension from the former, and a failure of flow from the latter. That the combat jumps from the easily-containable distraction of a couple of investigators to the constant irritation of streams of minion-decimating soldiers doesn’t help. It’s not particularly enjoyable in itself – all it serves to do is to slow the game down further.

It’s never a catastrophe. It’s often very thoughtful and bold in pushing a template that Bullfrog themselves left static with Dungeon Keeper 2, it really does look lovely and the sprawling size your base eventually reaches is a prouder sight than DK ever managed. So the right look, the right foundations but far too much fiddliness and not enough maniacal revelling in being a power-crazed bald midget with millions in his pocket.

With more spark and less drawn-out micro-management, Evil Genius could have been a break-out hit, this decaying genre’s salvation from a mess of Cardboard Box Tycoons and Theme Abattoirs. It didn’t seem to set the charts on fire, despite being a far more consciously commercial game than Elixir’s only other offering, the troubled and compromised Republic: The Revolution. That spelt the sad end of Elixir, the studio that had previously seemed best set to continue the Bullfrog legacy. They cited publisher unwillingness to take risks in the current climate, implying they’d rather fall on their sword than bow to commercial pressure. That’s astonishingly noble if it’s the case. I truly believe they’d have a managed a solid-gold classic sooner or later, but since the closure studio head Demis Hassabis has dropped out of games entirely, instead working in cognitive neuroscience and bagging awards for his research into memory. Admittedly, that’s probably more help to the world than Evil Genius 2 would have been.

Oh – here’s a demo of Evil Genius if you’re curious. Worth admiring its remarkably ageless look if nothing else. Finally, imagine if the game had lived up to this incredible box art:


  1. cHeal says:

    heh, I just re-started Republic last night. It’s easier than I remember but I still can’t figure out how to progress beyond the opening city :(

    Never did get Evil Genius even though I had intended, I think kinda felt a bit burnt with Republic if I’m honest.

  2. Tei says:

    Random data:

    link to

    *****Soon I Will Be Invincible****
    Absolutelly recomended boork If you like Evil Genius.

    **Frontlines: Fuel of War**
    Recomended game If you like BF2/42

    **Thief: Deadly Shadows**
    Recemended game.

    *Clive Barker’s Undying*
    Recemended game.
    Deus Ex
    *Recemended game*

    Battle Realms
    Jurassic Park: Trespasser
    Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri
    Flight Unlimited
    System Shock
    *Recemended game*
    Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds

  3. shon says:

    I load up Evil Genius about twice a year. I rarely actually finish a game though for most of the reasons you listed. It can be so very slow waiting for your plans to proceed. Research especially was a pain. You couldn’t order research, you had to wait till a scientist was inspired to start poking at something.

    One thing I did enjoy immensely was the traps. Hooking up triggers to magnets and piranha pits was terribly enjoyable. Sometimes I wish the game was all about the traps. My favorite moments in game were when you would just have a soldier rush at your base and you watched all your clever saw blades take care of them.

    I also want to add that the biggest strike against the game were hotels. They were supposed to keep tourists and spies busy, but they required valets to operate. Valets had to keep going back and forth from your secret entrance to operate the hotel, which spies just follow to enter your lair. Once I stopped building hotels altogether, I had a much easier time.

  4. Tei says:

    Wait… you mean .. THE OTHER austin.

  5. The_B says:

    I didn’t like Republic that much – I feel it was too sterile for me. Which was exactly what EG wasn’t, and therefore probably the primary reason I loved it so much. Agreed, it wasn’t anywhere near the greatness of DK, but it did manage to hold it’s own in a niche way that nothing else at the time really did.

    In fact, the two closest games I could really say that delighted me in the same way, that is not in how good they were as games, but how much I enjoyed their execution, were Startopia and Monopoly Tycoon. And come to mention it, those two I would love to see future Retro pieces on, even if I have already done the StarTopia one myself.

    I mean, seriously, you never really hear much about Monopoly Tycoon these days. It was a great little game really, and it’s a shame the future City Tycoons never quite managed to reach the same level of great but not classic ness.

  6. Chaz says:

    I remember trying the demo for this and didn’t like it either. It seemed to be too tight in the way it needed things laid out and setup for your base to work properly, and as you had no control over your minions it was hard to tell if you were doing the right thing. Above all though, the overwhelming memory I have of it was that it just wasn’t fun to play. The fun cartoonish style that was bursting with energy, seemed at odds with the gameplay, because it was actually quite unenjoyable, with rather strict strategy mechanics and all the pace of a slowly dripping tap.

  7. Junior says:

    Oh how I do love Evil Genius. Nothe the mechanics of the challenge though, oh no, I just cheated all the money I needed and set to building the most fiendish labyrinth I can at the entrance. Then watch with amusment as it neatly eliminates all agents, tourists, henchmen, workers and monkies from my base at once.

    Don’t forget to look up mods if you’re inspired to replay this, there are a few nice simple ones that give you a lot more freedom when designing your lair.

    Sorry, Base.

  8. Sentient says:

    I just bought overlord as it’ the only thing that reminds me of DK. I guess it’s better than EG but not a lot. Oooh if someone would only release DK3. I sooooo miss being the evil dude.

  9. Matt Kemp says:

    I still love Startopia, another byproduct of the Bullfrog split. I’d put it in the same class however. It has the same style and charm that EG seems to have.

    Unfortunately I seem to be alone in this assertion, and everyone else I know thinks it’s poor.

  10. CdrJameson says:

    Elixir games: I’m sure the computer’s having fun…

  11. Vitalis says:

    I keep coming to a moment where I am tempted to play EG, usually when desperate for a DK fix but not wanting to play DK itself…but then I read comments and reviews about it and how it’s not quite there, same with Startopia really…

    Will download the demo and finally have a look I guess.

    As many of the above and soon below probably feel, wanting more DK is like a craving that just cant be satisfied, it’s pretty frustrating. I guess there’s more games that deserved sequels they never got (or that weren’t quite there!) and left their fanbase feeling like that.

  12. Heliocentric says:

    Did you miss the gravy boat sentient? A dk mmo is being developed in the east. Probably a mess but who knows. Evil genius was not automatic enough for my tastes. Enemies needed tagging as hostile. Shooting your men isn’t enough. Startopia was the better game. Even offering multiplayer. But evil genius had so much more potential. I’ve been reading on genetic algorithms a little, i’d love to see if they could be used as a live fire solution to the complex ai needs of a game like this. Who’d play a dk esq flash game?

  13. M_the_C says:

    One of my favourite games ever. Yes it was a diamond in the rough, but I still got lots of enjoyment out of it.

    The menu music was brilliant, and the game itself was packed with humour.

    Although I would dearly like to play and Evil Genius 2, I hope no-one ever makes it. It would never live up to the goals of the original.

    @Matt Kemp
    Agreed, I enjoyed both Evil Genius and Startopia a lot, and they have a good deal in common, and yet they are still different enough.

    It’s really depressing when you look at gaming in that light, Mucky Foot, Elixir and Bullfrog, three companies that made some of the most original games we have ever seen, and yet they died while Generic Shooter XII still keeps going…

  14. Hirvox says:

    I liked Evil Genius for a while, but at the second phase the exploits of a certain British special agent got too annoying. Not only did he unerringly mow his way through the deadzone of my turrets or the room-o-death after it, but he also kept escaping from my maximum-security prison cells. And if I did brainwash him to leave, he would be back in five minutes, even before I had time to repair the damage he caused the last time. Sending elite minions after him was just a senseless waste of otherwise decent underlings.

    So the only viable option at that point was to keep giving him the grand tour of the various torture facilities and never, ever give him a breather. And while I could massacre the (also-endless) marine squads, saying “No mr. Bond, I expect you to die” was never an option.

    There was probably an option to research his weakness and do the special torture that would get rid of him for good, but all of my funds and manpower were tied up with his constant escape attempts.

    In other news, I now understand why those movie villains tend to execute random underlings.

  15. JonFitt says:

    I played EG for a good while when it came out, but never really got to the big end of game projects. it did take too long, and the Spies-following-Valets-into-the-base thing was very annoying.
    The traps were definitely the best bit though, but if I recall most of them weren’t fatal, they just delayed the spy until he got bored and left?

    I also bought Startopia but barely got into it before starting something else.

    I may go back to both of them.

    Also, check out this for non-computer evil base building fun:
    link to

  16. TooNu says:

    Just a word to the wise. Cheating in this game is never a bad thing, you are evil right? so use the extra cash cheat and make the game a little more enjoyable.

    I relise it’s not exactly the point of playing a game which is to have a bit of a challenge. However after you have played through it and found that during island 2 it becomes a bit of a “there is only 1 way to win otherwise you are f***ed”.
    Try it without the cheat and find yourself being a bit annoyed at the number of super agents that destroy your bits and traps, be a bit annoyed that many of your minions leave for whatever reason, and essentially have a pretty hard game turn into a 1 play wonder that you never touch again because of the frustrating bits.

    Or be better at it than me I guess :)

    In my defence however, I have played it on and off since release and only since I could basically make and remake my base with the various traps at my disposal, doing whatever I wanted due to having ALL THE CASH! had I any real fun and could just enjoy the dasterdly traps and henchman that I had installed within the complex. At this point the game turns into a game that focuses mainly on being evil to the poor agents and conjoring up the various ways to make your base super awesome impregnable, stealing various bits from around the world. It is a really fun game overall and the one game I feel cheating is not only just, it is expected from an Evil Genius….ok so a gneius doesn’t really need to cheat but hey, the ‘Evil’ comes first.

  17. Iain "DDude" Dawson says:

    The intro music for this is one of the greatest tunes ever in a game. It fits so perfectly.

    This was fun, but I used to run it while I did my homework. Why? ‘Cos you could just leave it running, come back and fiddle with everything, and then let it go again. So much waiting in the game…

  18. tikey says:

    I fell in love with this game when I read the mission descriptions.
    “Give steroids to the Pamplona race bulls”
    “Castrate a prolific panda”
    “Shrink and steal the Eiffel Tower”

    Oh the humor.

  19. Vitalis says:

    DK-esque flash game? Yeah I’d give it a shot for one, I think a fair few would- we played portal flash didn’t we! =p

    Nice series of games, never played myself (intend to)but a fair few friends highly rate them. In the vain of Jackson games for anyone who doesn’t know.
    If anyone’s interested there is a UK stockist a shop in Reading called Eclectic Games for all sorts of nerdy stuff. (Excuse me for the advert there RPS hivemind, just wanted to promote an independent retailer there)

  20. sinister agent says:

    I got a cheap copy of this after reading this:

    link to

    It’s a tragically flawed game that was so nearly brilliant. The waiting, the irritation of the waves of enemies, the constant tagging of do-gooder spies, the disappointingly uninvolving world map… they all left it feeling just a little bit too short of greatness for it to be entertaining for more than a day or two. Sad, really. The traps are by far the best part of the game, though – the way you could elaborately connect them was superb.

  21. RichP says:

    Fantastic idea, gorgeous art style, abysmal AI and execution.

    Forget direct attack orders; tag an enemy and hope the security cameras see it, otherwise Mr. Superagent will mow down your precious specialists while they stand around like morons. Have fun training spindoctors and physicists for the next 20 minutes!

    And I’ve yet to understand how the hell the hotel and valet system works and why I need to deal with a never-ending stream of clueless tourists.

    I truly wanted to like this game, but after an endless stream of annoyances, I uninstalled and moved on.

  22. Mike says:

    Yeah. I owe you this, Jon.

    Evil Genius was a good laugh, but it did feel a bit cheap. There just felt like there were bits missing, as if each minigame was missing half of its rules and challenges. But it’s great fun, just visually if nothing else. It’s funny. It always reminded me more of Theme Park than DK.

    Anyway. Yeah. If you find it in Gamestation nowadays it’s about three quid, so you can’t say no to that.

  23. Smurfy says:

    I’ve commanded my mother to get me this for Christmas. She was like “k lol ^.^” so it’s ordered.

  24. Alan Au says:

    I had a blast when I originally played this, after having added some mods to mitigate some of the more annoying aspects of the game.

    The biggest annoyance was the “heat” system and flood of enemy agents and investigators that just kept on coming, wave after wave after wave after wave after wave, regardless of your notoriety and wanted-ness level.

    Still, as a base-building exercise, it was quite entertaining and makes me wish there were more Dungeon Keeper-esque games to play these days.

  25. Arathain says:

    I also love Monopoly Tycoon. I still pull it out and play it once in a while. Oo, while we’re talking about games in this vein someone should do a Majesty retrospective, what with a sequel in development.

  26. Stupoider says:

    I still play this game every now and then, I love it!

    Clinging to the hope that there may be a sequel..

  27. Noc says:

    I’d play Theme: Abattoir.

  28. Yargh says:

    I absolutely loved this game, and the music from it regularly lives on my mp3 playlists. For me the main objective was always to build the most awesome and dangerous ultra-trap labyrinthes placed after the ‘secret’ back door to my base that was always mysteriously unlocked.
    so I guess the failings of the rest of the game affected me less.

    Also, for Hirvox, you can’t get rid of Bond/Steed as he has a very special role to play in the finale… Kind of a shame as I did so love utterly destroying the other super agents with their secret weaknesses.

  29. Gurrah says:

    What a fabulous game it was, and still ist. A bit like Sim Team Fortress 2.

  30. Jahkaivah says:

    Wow… for the first time in months I think about this game, then I see this article.


  31. Sören Höglund says:

    I didn’t like Republic that much – I feel it was too sterile for me. Which was exactly what EG wasn’t, and therefore probably the primary reason I loved it so much. Agreed, it wasn’t anywhere near the greatness of DK, but it did manage to hold it’s own in a niche way that nothing else at the time really did.

    Republic plain makes me angry. Lovely engine, but it’s completely wasted becasue you’re playing a glorified boardgame and except for some horribly artificial exceptions, you never have to leave that view of the map.

    I wouldn’t mind if it actually was a good boardgame, but it isn’t. And to add insult to injury, there’s often a linear progression through levels. You HAVE to blackmail the Bishop to advance, and to be able to do that you have to do THIS and god fuck off.

    It’s such a pity, because the concept of leading a revolution makes me all giddy inside, but not even a massive hard-on for the subject matter can overcome that unfocused mess of a game.

  32. Flappybat says:

    Please please please do a retro about Hardwar.

    It’s depressing how few people know it exists.

  33. hydra9 says:


    Hardwar. I’ve owned a copy ever since it came out. I have a disc with all the incredible patches on it. But I haven’t played the game yet. I will… one day.

  34. Candid_Man says:

    I’m not sure if it’s been mentioned already, but there’s a flash game with the same “E.V.I.L. overlord” theme over there on newgrounds :

    link to

    It does not work along the DK formula, but I dare say it gets the whole Bond villain thing down pat. For all the time I invested in my non-cheat EG game, I found this flash piece a lot more fun and dynamic.

  35. SanguineLobster says:

    Oh, it’s Theme Park with torture and fighting? Isn’t that just Theme Park?

  36. Pod says:

    EG was really good fun. The only problem I saw were the annoying agents. Sure, making traps to stop them were fun, but they’d constantly own my gaurds. So much so that I looked up cheaty little “perpetual motion” traps on the internet. Great stuff. But annoying as hell those mega-spys were :(

    Also: I’m sure you could speed up time…?

  37. MarvintheParanoidAndroid says:

    I really enjoyed Evil Genius, and never really ran into huge problems with money or enemy agents until at once point some lucky saboteurs managed to sneak in and blew up my power facilities. From there I was pretty much done for, with no security working and not enough money to rebuild my masses of power stations without everything else getting blown up again. I never really went back to it after that, sadly. Creating ingenious traps was brilliant fun, and I loved the world map missions and the way you had to manage your minions on it. One day, I will go back to it and play it again! (Maybe when I figure out how to get it to run on Vista).

  38. boatorious says:

    Heh. I loved DK2, I even beat it. I hardly ever do this since I’m easily distracted but it was an awesome game.

    I also have EG, but I never associated the two until I read this article. Which is funny because they are incredibly similar.

    Anyway, I pooped out on EG while doing training missions. I am generally not a fan of games that require excessive learning.

  39. Ginger Yellow says:

    “I still love Startopia, another byproduct of the Bullfrog split. I’d put it in the same class however. It has the same style and charm that EG seems to have.

    Unfortunately I seem to be alone in this assertion, and everyone else I know thinks it’s poor.”

    Who have you been talking to? Startopia is fantastic, and it got pretty good reviews, too.

    Anyway, as for Evil Genius, I’ll admit that it was frustrating in a constantly-harrying-you-a-la-Spore-in-space way, but still, it was a damn fun game, and the closest there’s ever been to a revival of the DK formula. The endgame was just too much for me, though.

  40. Saul says:

    I’ve never played EG, but I did have a go at DK. I have to say that while I loved the concept, I found it rather ridiculously easy, and so got bored pretty quickly. I didn’t like that you could just pick minions up and dump them right on intruders, I craved a bit more strategy. I never tried the sequel.

  41. Mr.President says:

    Thirding the intro music comment: it’s amazing and ties with MGS3 theme song for the title of the best faux-60s videogame soundtrack.

  42. Ragnar says:

    I really liked Evil Genius (I never played DK though). The biggest problem with it was that there were too little variation and thus no replayability (there was only two places to build bases and you had to go through them each playthrough and always the same types of rooms and same types of furniture). That it is slow is no problem for me although it may have been a little too slow towards the end.

    It’s not that the decision to make minions entirely autonomous is a bad one – you are, after all, the Evil Genius, not the Head Foreman – but it’s that what you get to do yourself is too insubstantial or too finickity to compensate.

    That it has autonomous units is a big plus! Almost all RTS:s require you to steer every bloody unit all the time. It is monotonous and boring. This is also partly what has destroyed the The Settlers franchise, they went from the excellent gameplay with autonomous settlers to a gameplay where you have to personally steer every unit.

  43. Ragnar says:


    Thirding the intro music comment: it’s amazing and ties with MGS3 theme song for the title of the best faux-60s videogame soundtrack.

    The best faux-60s videogame soundtrack is without a doubt No One Lives Forever.

  44. cliffski says:

    little known fact:
    The art style for EG is partly down to a guy called siku. He was originally recruited by Elixir to do art for a cool speedball-style futuristic sports game, but that got canned by microsoft. When that happened, he worked on concept art for EG instead. The reason the style is so pointy and distinctive, is he was one of the guys who used to draw Judge Dredd. There were lots of nerdrections by comics fans when he was employed there.
    He was a nice guy, and used to sign hymns to himself whilst drawing.
    (link to

  45. drewski says:

    I always wanted to play Republic, but I heard it was too flawed to justify paying full price and then I never found it discounted or in budget form.

    So I missed out. Perhaps I can find it on eBay or GoG or something.

  46. eyemessiah says:

    Instead of traps my lair, er base had an external maze of corridors and lots and lots of doors. When an enemy team or agent turned up I would let them in a bit and then just lock a few doors. There were many multiple ways through the maze, which encircled my entire base, so my underlings would just take an alternate path, ignoring the locked off segment where the enemy teams would spend literally hours pointlessly prizing open doors only to find themselves trapped in another dead-end. Often they would force open a door, stumble confusedly into the next locked off segment, poke around for a bit and then try and go back out the way they came, which was now relocked. In this manner I sometimes had large numbers of enemies and agents trapped just going backwards and forwards through the same few sealed segments.

    I eventually gave up on the game for all the reasons above though. It was all just a little bit too tiresome in the end, but a good effort on the whole.

  47. terry says:

    I have to admit I never seemed to quite “get” Evil Genius. Aside from the fact that I had possibly the worst onboard graphics at that point and the game ran like a dog, there seemed to be too much dependency on doing exceedingly boring things to advance. The entire charm of the game (and come to think of it the Chris Sawyer tycoon games) for me was watching the game play itself – tweaking orders and networks and watching it slowly take effect. Have to admit I never felt any such engagement from EG’s foreign mission micromanagement. It seems a trifle odd to put all that detail into the generally pretty fun game portion and then combine it with a management section that felt quite so undeveloped and dull.

    I guess I’ll keep waiting for Morgue Tycoon.

  48. Tei says:

    I don’t know any Morgue Tycoon, but theres Afterlife.
    link to

  49. much2much says:

    Evil Genius and Republic were games with beautiful sound and music. Like Alec referring to the animations being right same with these elements. This is a game company that definitely knew how to do those things very well. The sounds had a very Pavlovian feel to them. You would really respond to them and they had a very tactile feel. Something a lot of games these days only get right when its a matter of bullets coming out of a gun.

    Evil Genius was ponderous and definitely had the feel of game features not really meshing into the game very well.

    Republic is one of my favourite games of all time. Sure I would give it a 7/10 but still… what game allows you to increase your faction members loyalty by making him your blood brother or the most moving of them all having a bishop anoint him (along with epic music) and the only game I’ve ever played where Simglish actually enhances the game. They did bite off more than they chewed through which was sad and this game really needed three great designers to do it justice.

  50. LionsPhil says:

    Evil Genius was ace. Yes, money was slow to trickle in, and that was annoying—I found it a much better strategy to ramp stealing up to maximum, let all the minions in the field die (and henchman return), deal with the burst of soldiers (not that hard if your minions would stay inside, which generally meant no active hotels, and hope the idiot construction workers aren’t trying to pick up any shipments), and then run on that income for a while while the heat cooled again. Plotting for missions was worse as you were basically blind to your objective and progress towards it.

    Using non-lethal memory-wiping traps got rid of agents and lost heat when they returned home to report a deserted island. In fact, a good strategy—and this is where Evil Genius shines over Dungeon Keeper in base layout strategy—was to make your outer base full of heat-free kitchens and the like, and seal off the inner base with all the Evil stuff. Most agents won’t get that deep in, so return home with “all clear”. Those that do are fewer in number and easier to fit in your freezer. Look, thinky gameplay elements!

    The indestructable super-agents were worse; the time between them ending up being captured and the point at which you could counter them could often be a long and frustrating period of rebuilding the jail they smashed up every time they got out (just before succumbing to the stun bees).

    But such a strong audio and visual aesthetic, and so many lovely little humourous touches, can paper over cracks surprisingly well.

    I still love Startopia

    Likewise, except that the moment it hit combat, all the fun drained out of it. Trying to steal an adjacent station segment, even armed with dozens of the big security dudes, was a nightmare failure of an RTS.