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Game Review

The Overlord games are designed for those players who long to slip into the armor and cape of an evil monarch and rule over an underworld full of groveling minions. No, it's not that demonic ruler or the underworld. But the game designers at Codemasters want you to imagine you're, at the very least, barbecuing in the same neighborhood.

By the end of the first game, the gremlin-like rabble was left rudderless with the untimely squashing of their bad-guy lord and leader. Overlord II picks up the action a few years later when the wicked scamps spot a suitably young replacement and start grooming him for the big red throne. Gamers take over as this new glowing-eyed, voiceless overlord and learn the ropes of wreaking havoc and manufacturing mayhem.

The opposition this time around is the Glorious Empire, a Roman Empire-like kingdom that is determined to root out all evil magic-users. They've set their legions of heavily armed soldiers—aided by groups of politically correct environmentalist elves—directly in your world-dominating path. This simply won't do. So the game offers up a lengthy list of quests that challenge your ability to find certain magical objects and make your way around, over or through obstacles the Glorious Empire has created.

Red, Brown and Blue
Gameplay is pretty much spot-on identical—with a few exceptions—to the original Overlord. Even though your glowering avatar looks massive and imposing in his custom-made helm and cuirass, and has some special lightening-like magic abilities, he's ultimately a pushover on his own. So you won't be ordering him to wade into the crowds swinging an ax. Instead you'll strategically direct mobs of minions and apply their specific skills to the task at hand.

The browns, for instance, are the first uglies under your command. And they're primarily used as meat and muscle for a frontal assault. These bruisers can jump up on a wolf's back and really bowl the opposition over. The reds are more delicate but laugh in the face of fiery obstacles. They can also toss fireballs that will cause regimented soldiers to break ranks and run. The greens are primed for sneaky stealth. And the blues can swim fish-like to any water-bound objective.

To make things even more involving in game II, the imps have picked up a few new tricks. Along with the above-mentioned animal-riding skill, various minions can now don disguises, operate machinery and sail boats. When encountering special magic stones the overlord can even directly possess an underling and use his small size to get past an otherwise impassable point.

Directing your crowds of grungies to tear apart towns or swarm over enemies is all handled with a flick of the right analog thumbstick. And it works pretty well. There is one annoying flaw in the game mechanics system that should be noted, though. The camera view is controlled by the same thumbstick that guides the minions. And it's all too common to try to turn the camera and instead send your evil rabble swarming over a nearby cliff.

A Teasing T
OK, so now that we know this game is all about evil winning the day and everyone else being set upon by armies from the netherworld, you're probably wondering, "Just how nasty does it get?" Well, first a bit of faint praise: It's not as bad as it could have been. It's not rated M, in other words. But it still pushes boundaries.

Language is kept light with a couple uses of "d--n" and a few toilet gags. But the sexuality is more than you might expect in a T game. The overlord and his harem of seductively clad girls (picked up as the game progresses) can engage in offscreen sex. And there are a number of other sexualized characters, too—including some overly endowed fairies with only small flowers for covering.

Blood and guts are absent, but I found the bash-and-mash side of things to be pretty concerning. For reasons other than you might expect.

All for a Laugh
Just about every living thing in the game's fantasy world can be leapt upon and bloodlessly killed—be it human, fairy or animal. One quest delights in sending your mini-demons in to club as many baby seals as possible, for instance. And, in fact, that's a key example since it points out what this game is really after:

From its wanton "crush 'em all" attitude to a tongue-in-cheek narration to the comically voiced minions, Overlord II wants to mitigate its violence by making you guffaw at all the evil deeds you're asked to do. The game's reoccurring themes of chaos, careless pleasure and the general spread of evil just keep bouncing along on a sea of chuckles. It's saying, "Sure, this stuff is fiendishly wicked, but ain't it a hoot?"

Call me a peeved peasant, but something about that doesn't feel right.

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