If you’re not familiar with the What Did I Do To Deserve This My Lord series, there are probably a number of reasons for that. For one, the original game was released under a different name, Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman! What Did I Do To Deserve This? That mouthful seemed to unnerve some executive somewhere, and the series quickly got a name change to avoid copyright infringement. It probably didn’t help the series’ popularity that the original game was only released as a downloadable title. Still, even though the sequel is being placed in retail boxes and the series’ new name won’t get anyone’s Batman underoos in a pinch, this cult Japanese strategy game probably hasn’t evolved enough for it to appeal to a wide American audience.

The game’s title is essentially the catchphrase for antihero Overlord Badman. This demon lord has summoned you into his realm so that you will help him take over the world. It seems that the only thing standing in his way is a pesky race of humans who have built medieval civilizations on the planet’s surface. To help Badman erase this problem, you’ll use a pickaxe to carve out elaborate mazelike dungeons, and then fill them with a multitude of monsters that corrupt the land and kill any invading heroes.

The premise seems simple enough, but if you haven’t played the first game, you’ll definitely want to check out the tutorial missions. And be sure to keep checking them out each time you unlock a new unit. The learning curve is a little steep, and the game’s mechanics aren’t easily understood at the beginning. The overarching goal of What Did I Do 2 is to create a livable environment that supports a variety of monsters. Tiny slime creatures help spread nutrients across your dungeon floor. Once a block of rock has been infused with enough nutrients, you can crack it open like an egg and release a new monster. The strategy here is a bit unique. Make your paths too wide, for example, and your slimes won’t spread nutrients fast enough. However, if you don’t increase the size of your dungeon fast enough, you won’t have enough creatures in your world to support the ecosystem. Bigger creatures need to eat smaller creatures to live and breed, and fallen enemies will leave mana behind that can be used to grow powerful magical creatures. You need to keep an eye on every link of the food chain or things fall apart.

Unfortunately, most of the time I felt like I was just breeding chaos. I like the idea of a digital ecosystem – it’s amusing that dragons eat slimes to regain life, or most of your demons won’t like each other – but in practice, I was more often frustrated to find one of my dragons eating all my slimes, or my Ruin Demons killing each other. This is especially aggravating since you can’t issue commands to any of your units. Every creature in the game functions under its own free will-driven AI, so when the humans attack and three of your most powerful creatures feel content to sit patiently in the corner of the dungeon while Badman gets dragged to the surface by his ankles, your only course of action is to yell at the screen. Like farming, you need to make sure all your seeds are planted before the storm comes.

I enjoyed What Did I Do 2’s quirky, lighthearted nature, and found its retro art style to be cute. But its freeform strategy design leaves too much of the gameplay out of your control. Anyone who watched an ant farm as a kid, hoping that one of the worker ants would finally lose its mind and start biting off the limbs of her fellow sisters, might find a certain kind of appeal here. But like a farm of fire arts, if you open the case and try to participate in the excitement, you’ll end up with a fistful of painful frustration.