As well as conquering and pillaging, you also have to recover various items strewn around the levels in order to upgrade your private tower into the ultimate evil “crib.” That includes opening up a forge where you can create upgraded armor and weapons by sacrificing your minions, getting yourself a buxom wench and decorating the place to your evil tastes.
However, it’s the minions themselves that are the highlight of the game. You start with only brown minions (strong attack) but will soon rescue three more hives, bringing the red (fire-resistant, can throw fireballs and put fires out), blue (water-resistant and can heal other minions but weak to attacks) and green (resistant to poison and possessing a good stealth attack) minions under your control too. With only a limited number of minions at your disposal at any one time, you’ll use these little critters to rescue tower parts, take down enemies (after which you can harvest their life force, therefore earning you more minions) and generally pillage everything in sight. After all, evil overlords don’t spend their days making daisy chains and cuddling kittens.
Your minions are highly entertaining too, with some amusing dialogue, excellent voices (we detected a hint of Cartman more than once) and a liberal dose of humor - even the most devout of animal lovers will chuckle as they jump onto the backs of the bleating sheep. They’ll also pick up whatever they find lying around to use in battle, which occasionally yields amusing results (such as pumpkins used as helmets). And of course there’s a strange sense of satisfaction to be gained from trashing everything you see.
The game is pretty fiddly when played with mouse and keyboard, but is much better with an Xbox 360 gamepad (or equivalent) if you’re playing the PC version, where the dual analog sticks perfectly fit the character/minion control. Once you’re controlling your minions, the Pikmin similarities become self-evident. Direct your minions to swarm a creature and an indicator of how many are attacking it appears above its head. Objects that need to be retrieved have numbers above them indicating how many minions are needed to carry them. And when you first meet the giant frogs, you almost find yourself starting to look for spaceship parts.
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