Nyaaa Ha Ha Ha Ha! Rule the world and have fun at the same time!
The game has a great feel to it and designers have thrown in all sorts of touches to capture the feel and look of 1960's spy thrillers while adding in some fun too. Even the opening menu screens have the famous silhouettes from the opening credits of a Bond film – but I won't spoil the fun by telling you what they are silhouettes of! Even the manual joins in the fun, masquerading as the purchasing guide for an "evil lair of unknown location."
You play as one of three highly clichéd evil geniuses: a short squat domineering German (sound familiar to any Bond lovers?), a Russian femme fatale or a wily and inscrutable oriental mandarin. Through them you can take over the world through the use of a suitably elaborate and farcical doomsday device of your choosing.
As your fame – or rather infamy increases – you can attract the services of up to seven specialised henchmen many of whom are lifted from the pages of the spy classics of the 60s: a voodoo priest, big bad afro'ed sharpshooters etc. There are some new ones you can choose too – I have a soft spot for the fun caused by the elderly psychotic nurse known only as "The Matron" and her homicidal handbag...
Your genius and your henchmen are the only units you can control directly to do what you want and go where you choose. Everyone else – your force of up to 100 minions – is controlled indirectly. You simply issue orders: "Build that!" "Move this!" "Kill them!" and your minions will get around to it. There are over a dozen specialist minion types. You can recruit simple workers who build stuff and can fight when needed or you can train them up into something more specialised like a martial arts specialist or a nuclear physicist so they can perform sophisticated tasks.
Some of those tasks involve going out in the wide world to kidnap, steal, destroy, blackmail defraud etc. Some will result in loot that you can keep that gives you benefits or can be used as part of your research activities to discover new weapons and traps. Once again all the usual fun clichés are there: yes you CAN steal the Crown Jewels, a Picasso or two and even the Eiffel Tower for fun. Each such act increases your infamy but also the suspicion of the nations of the world.
While you are raiding them, they will also be raiding you. They will send to your base various minions of their own – investigators, saboteurs, assassins and, ultimately, super agents of their own. These guys can steal loot back, ruin your base and your plans and even slay your genius if you are not careful. You can kill them, sure - but where is the fun in that?
And so a whole chunk of the game is given to elaborate traps: giant magnets, buzz saws that rise from the floor, lethal gas vents, killer bees, electrical discharge cannons. Dozens of them to play havoc with the forces of goodness. There are great animations as they get caught in each trap. When will I tire of seeing them fall into my concealed piranha tank? As a bonus, you get cash rewards if you can develop a sequence of traps à la Mousetrap in which the hapless victim tumbles from one trap to the next. You will find whole websites and discussions about the ideal trap combinations to protect your hidden hideaway.
In keeping with the whole genre you do indeed have an evil lair hidden inside a mountain on a tropical island which masquerades as a holiday resort – two in fact. In it you can build all manner of rooms from your Control Room and Power Station (including the mandatory hidden rocket silo) to things as mundane as a canteen and recreation room for your minions coming home after a long day of rape and plunder. You need your traps and your minions to protect your base from the prying eyes of forces of goodness as well as the innocent tourists who will be vacationing on the island.
All this means you play this game as straightforward strategy game and race to your doomsday device to take rule the world. OR you can play it as a builder to design the perfect base with the ideal arrangement of traps and have fun just making the lot of them suffer! OR you can focus on a more tactical game and try and take out those forces of goodness whatever way you can.
Best thing I can say about this game is that hard and frustrating as the gameplay can be at times, this is a game where I am smiling all the time. There are so many nice touches to keep you amused. I never fail to laugh when a crack troop of commandos lands on the island and stumble into my tourist hotel only to be unable to help themselves and wind up on the dance floor moving like a 14 year old boy at his first dance. Torturing a spy in my bio-tanks (or even my library!) can be SO satisfying when I see the consequences. The game is a hoot from beginning to end.
GRAPHICS: Nothing to write home about and well done. There are, however, plenty of great animations that are sort of James Bond meets Looney Tunes. Enjoy!
SOUND: Fantastic. Deserves an award. They have really captured the big orchestral sound of the 1960's and evoke those spy classics. I promise you, you will linger on menu screens just to hear the various tracks.
GAMEPLAY: Being unable to directly control minions will frustrate you. So will losing all your specialised minions like marksmen after spending half an hour training a squad. But it is a novel gameplay which is fun in itself and there are plenty of compensations. The fun of building your bizarrely complicated doomsday device will keep you having fun.
This game is a hidden treasure well worth looking under the radar for. It is really great game that is fun all along the way!