The Island of Doctor Engar

Evil Genius Plotworks; CD-ROM ; $49.95
I want to know who wrote this game, and what fucking asylum they escaped from. In this game, you take the role of the nefarious Dr. Engar, and you have just escaped to an isolated island to set up your own lab. This isn't really a game, more of a simulation, in the Maxis tradition of SimLife, or Unnatural Selection. The object of the game is to perform experiments on the subjects you have in cages, both animal and human. The options are staggering; you breed new subjects, muck around with the genetics (mixing human and animal genes, deleting or adding key genes), operate on the subjects at any stage of their developement (including in utero--ick). Similarly, you can construct rooms to test out and warp the psyche of the inhabitants, from sensory deprivation to near constant torture. I cannot do justice to the possiblities the game offers here; the research done for this game, from genetics to anatomy to bizzare psychology, is simply stunning.

Eventually, you will be called on to evaluate your work, and periodically a sort of mad-scientist convention gets launched where you compete against other nefarious masterminds (the inscrutable Dr. Xu; Dr. Filligrington; Dr. Futomaki and his plucky sidekick, California Roll; Dr. N'dwame; Dr. Al-Assam; the black-gloved Dr. Merkwurdiglieb; and of course, Dr. Moreau.), each with their own specialty. Similarly, you can sell some of your creations on the global black market (brokered by a salty one-eyed smuggler named Seth) for funds to further your exploits.

I didn't have the stomach to really delve into the possibilities of the game. I used the excellent auto-tutorial feature (personified as a toadying, hunchbacked lab assistant), who suggested that I rewire the optic nerve of a human baby through the auditory cortex (the part of the brain that handles sound), leaving me with a baby with strange, spastic eyes that bumped into things alot. Fortunately, there is an auto-feature, where you let the good doctor go to work and he shows you what he came up with. In my case, the Doctor engineered bizarre, deformed sociopathic human thugs with elongated heads and clawed hands the size of my PC that could run faster than dogs, and constructed a room with a mirrored floor filled with dogs and infants; when the dogs looked down they jumped, barking, believing themselves to be falling; the infants merely looked down and cried hollow, desparing cries. It was chilling.

As far as standard "game things" go, everything is in order. The sound is good, the graphics adequate (high point--detailed cortical maps). Since there's not alot of action (except for chasing the occasional errant creation back into a cage), one could probably get away with this one on a fast 486 without too much trouble.

All in all, not my cup of tea, probably not the cup of tea of anyone I know, but some disturbed people will find this entrancing.

-- Jonathan Stockman

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