Somehow, 2000AD owners/ AvP developers Rebellion ended up owning the Evil Genius IP in the wake of Elixir’s sad demise, and they’ve finally revealed their nefarious plans for the spiritual Dungeon Keeper sequel – a social network adaptation that should perhaps be known as MinionVille.
I don’t have a professional problem with FarmVille and the many games that clone it/it cloned, though I’m personally no fan of Zynga’s unsmiling Metrics > Creativity mentality. If people want to play these games, fine: they’re not getting in the way of our games.
Making known trad. gaming IPs into FarmVille clones is where matters get a little more complicated. The rampant mentality in Facebook game-land right now is that you need an established brand if your game is going to stand out amongst the frighteningly similar crowd. This certainly makes sense for something like FIFA, or even Civ – something the public at large are aware of, on some level. When it’s a semi-obscure game like Evil Genius, though, it just seems like pointlessly dicing with veteran players’ fondness for the sake of leveraging an IP that has absolutely no resonance for the vast majority of the intended audience.
Evil Genius, the Facebook game, is an exceptionally strange affair. On paper, it retains the key elements of the charming but flawed original: build a base, send out minions on global missions of malfeasance and, above all, generate infamy and wealth. Expand, essentially.
That’s all there still, in boiled-down, one click fashion. The trouble here is that those concepts are almost horrifyingly well-suited to the collectormania that drives the bulk of Facebook games. Click, click, click, click to unlock to click to unlock to click to unlock: every click gains you some key resource but simultaneously depletes another (primarily, minions). If you run out of a resource, you can chuck some real-life money to the evil geniuses at a microtransaction company to get your grubby little hands on more. Otherwise, just wait until tomorrow and your stocks will have replenished enough to burn another half hour on this for free.
Of course, none of this has happened by accident: it’s Rebellion jumping onto the same bandwagon as everyone else, which they’re 100% entitled to do. I just wish they weren’t doing it by reducing a game a bunch of people are fond of a mindless, money-making clickfest that they could have stuck any old name onto instead. Foolish to wish otherwise, of course: leveraging the brand is, again, the done thing, and the shareholders will be pleased. Did Dr Evil have shareholders? I suspect not.
In Evil Genius’ favour, it’s definitely one of the more attractive and characterful takes on ‘Ville games I’ve seen, and whether or not it’s a satisfying game for Evil Genius fans (it’s not), it genuinely attempts to make the formula thematically suited to the license. Oh, and the use of the original game’s music offers a vaguely pleasing nostalgia-tickle. I hope, however, to never hear anything of it ever again.
Here’s me retro-fetishising the original game, incidentally.