by Marty Demarest & r & & r & Overlord & r & & r & Rated Teen; Xbox 360, PC & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & B & lt;/span & eing an evil overlord is a lot like being a parent. Both parents and evil overlords are in charge of hordes of small, noisy, destructive creatures. In the case of parents, children were a known risk. In the case of evil overlords, however, I sympathize -- they had no idea they would need to micromanage minions when they hopped aboard the evil overlord train.

Minions differ from children primarily in appearance. Whereas most children look young and innocent, with smooth skin and limber limbs, minions are scaly, with horns and calloused encrustations all over their faces. Their arms and legs jab awkwardly from lumpen bodies. Their ears are long and spindly, like Yoda's had been given an evil yank. They chitter and yammer through wide, fang-rimmed rictuses.

Beyond appearance, however, minions are strikingly similar to kids. Some of them taunt their foes from a distance, or start fires that rip through dry fields of grain. Others never manage to get sick, no matter how much putrid goo they scrounge through.

Minions, like children, devour anything in their paths, touching, grabbing and breaking. And both minions and children are relentless collectors of the effluvia that have collected in boxes and piled away in corners. My minions are always coming up to me, holding their latest finds aloft. "For the master!" they chant. That's a touch missing from most children, I guess.

Parents and overlords spend most of their energy simply managing the children/minions. Getting them to swarm in the right direction, or tackle the proper enemy, can take as much time and attention as walking up to them and whacking them myself. And while they're relentlessly helpful at carrying things that I find on my travels, they're continually getting in the way by wandering into pools of water when they can't swim, or catching themselves on fire when some other minion is trying to ignite an enemy.

Like a good parent, an overlord must worry about the neighbors. I try to be benevolent towards the villages that border my dark tower. Quite often they're full of ordinary people who have gotten tired of living under a "hero" who has grown insolent and lazy. I'm more than happy to come in and destroy these do-gooder oppressors, as long as my minions can help me scavenge local goods for use in my tower. A little neighborly borrowing -- and if the neighbors object, my minions can kill them. It's the overlord's equivalent of sending the kids over to play.

THE GOOD: Pikmin was one of the first console videogames to blend real-time strategy with a third-person action perspective, and aside from Pikmin 2, no notable games followed suit until Overlord. Essentially an evil Pikmin, Overlord is a solid step forward in establishing a new, hybrid genre of videogame on consoles.

THE BAD: The four different worlds of Overlord are laid out in a confusing, hard-to-view tangle of paths. There is no map, and it's not possible to teleport around the levels. For a game that requires me to continually backtrack in order to accomplish my goals, getting around quickly becomes a tedious chore.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Masses of minions and a grisly sense of humor are enough to bring out the Overlord in anyone.

4/5 Stars

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