Do you like movies like Despicable Me, Austin Powers, James Bond and games like Theme Hospital, Overlord, Dungeon Keeper and Tropico?. If the answer is yes, you'll be glad to know that Evil Genius 2 borrows a ton from all of these. You take on the role of a supervillain who wants to achieve world domination and the mix between pop cultural references, great comedy, solid mechanics, and lovely overall design makes this a very entertaining sequel to a truly fantastic game.
Evil Genius 2: World Domination rests firmly on a number of pillars. The first is your workers. You will get nowhere without these and you can employ more with money or wait until they are recruited automatically at regular intervals. You need to take care of workers' needs such as sleep, food, morale and more, so that they can train in training rooms to become specialists in one of four categories: technicians, scientists, soldiers and cover operation staff (who work in the casino that draws in money and keeps eyes of the true function of your lair). All categories have several professional roles you can use, and a big part of the game is unlocking these classes to benefit your lair.
The second pillar is science that is used to research new buildings and improvements, and the third pillar is the world map that is reminiscent of something you see in XCOM. This duality between base construction and the world map is a familiar and proven system that works well. You build bases in parts of the world and can then perform missions such as robbing banks and shooting down planes. Unfortunately, everything is text-based on the world map, but this is where you make money, which simultaneously does increase how intensely the Forces of Justice (the "villains" of this super villain tale) look for you.
The fourth and final pillar is the supervillain. What first struck me when I chose one of the four playable characters was that the characters are designed for different play styles. You have four campaigns that differ slightly, both in terms of theme, narrative and goals, which means that Evil Genius 2: World Domination has a replayable value. If you choose to play as Red Ivan, your subjects will be better at defending your lair, but if you play as Maximilian (A mix of Blofeld and Dr. Evil), you can recruit more workers and earn lots of extra gold compared to the others. Spy master Emma's focus is to fool enemy spies easier and to be more effective on the world map, and if you choose Zalika (as I did in my first campaign), you play as an evil scientist where the focus is on traps and research. The traps are always a highlight in games like these and Evil Genius 2 is no exception, and when we look at the game mechanically, everything merges together well, and it doesn't matter that the design is colourful, a bit blocky and simple.
When the Forces of Justice invades your base, you must let your subjects, unique characters, traps and supervillain of your choice take care of this. To help you, you also have the option to press a huge red warning triangle that starts an alarm. It's fun every time to see the base go into lockdown with all the people running around in panic while your soldiers look for the intruders. The intruders will of course vary depending on the level of difficulty, how far you are in the campaign, and who is attacking. The common denominator is that they want to kill your supervillain and destroy the base in various ways. Sometimes they try to set fire to the base, attach explosives to your reactors or steal your gold. No matter what their purpose is, you can not allow them to ruin your vicious plans. Therefore, it is important that you constantly keep track of both your base and your world map. Sometimes you know when agents are coming, as they advertise it themselves but in some cases you do not know at all and the surprise-attacks are often the roughest when it comes to destruction and killing.
A significant part of Evil Genius 2: World Domination is about the dynamics between the world map and base building. Almost every operation on the world map will cost you henchmen, as they never return to the base in order to keep prying eyes away. This means that you need to think about when, where and how you spend resources and manpower for operations outside your base. If you send your entire guard force on a mission at the same time as the Forces of Justice attacks your base - it will be difficult to survive. The enemy's agents come in various forms and can open doors, sabotage traps and set fire to half the base, and you need muscle to ward off threats. Maintaining a balance between the crew in the base and those you send away for operations is central for you to be able to succeed in the game, however, I should emphasise that the game is quite kind, forgiving even - and you can recover even if it looks really gloomy. The only thing you have to avoid is your supervillain dying in battle. If that happens, it's game over, just like in the original.
When I look back on my time with Evil Genius 2: World Domination, it's the daft details I remember the most. From how your workers have to pass through a spinning door over and over again to become cover operation workers, all the way to the torture of enemies by tickling their feet. They are too many to name here, but the intricate details bolster this title enormously.
Despite strengths such as great humour, good game mechanics and wonderful retro aesthetics, there are a few weaknesses in addition to what I have already mentioned. There are a little too few islands to choose from as your home base, and what the superweapons do is not entirely clear to you as a player, one is even quite a disappointment. It is about how information is presented, which works well in most regards but not always (the user interface could do with a little update).
Evil Genius 2: World Domination feels a bit like playing the villain in an Austin Powers movie (but a bit more kid-friendly). It's naughty, strange, funny, challenging, chaotic and all the characters are caricatures and clichés we've all come across in pop culture, at some point. Evil Genius 2 is a good game that perhaps lacks some really fresh, new content but remains true to its origins. If you, like me, love the humour, the style and the opportunity to live life as a supervillain, this title is a pretty great option.