Tycoon-style games have enjoyed a tiny comeback, sparked by the return of Two Point Hospital and Frontier’s work on Planet Coaster and Planet Zoo. Now enters Evil Genius 2, a revived cult classic more in the spirit of 1997’s Dungeon Keeper. You’re a villain-mastermind, trying to keep meddling heroes out of your elaborately-constructed lair as you make progress on a master scheme.

It’s a delightful concept, and a reminder that we still need more ‘bad guy’ games, especially farcical ones. It feels good to just click-drag a giant money vault into existence, then watch it passively accumulate piles of gold bars. It feels good to ask your scientists to research a special laser door you can use to protect that horde of bouillon. It feels good to waddle around a sprawling base as a psychopathic Dr. Evil-look-alike contest winner, boosting minion productivity within my radius.

Evil Genius 2

My early-game base, with a golden Inner Sanctum in progress. (Image credit: Rebellion)

Over the last week I had access to a limited pre-release build of Evil Genius 2, our first chance to play it since we first glimpsed it at 2019’s PC Gaming Show. What I played was essentially the tutorial, which turns out to be several hours of checklist tasks that talk you through every main system and constructable room type. It’s a necessary introduction to Evil Genius 2’s UI and sandbox structure. Though I walked away with some modest concerns about its depth and event variety—mostly because much of the game’s content was unavailable in this build—I’m sold on Evil Genius 2 as a crooked take on the genre.