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Gamers are pretty accustomed to playing the hero and saving the day, but Overboard’s dastardly protagonist is an entirely different kettle of fish.
When we meet the aptly named Veronica Villensey, ice-cold British former-actor and bored socialite, she is in the process of shoving her wealthy husband over the railings during a trans-Atlantic voyage. If there’s any guilt at her crime, it’s generally batted away with a droll quip.
Waking early on the day of your arrival into New York harbor, you’re given just eight hours in which to persuade, cajole, seduce, deceive, and threaten your fellow passengers into a state of either compliance or silence. Included among the game’s colorful cast is a retired Indian Colonel, a perpetually drunk author, a card-playing gentlemen, and a handsome captain.
All have their own secrets and motivations, which can be uncovered through branching conversation trees and a little sleuthing. It’s like an interactive Agatha Christie story, only this time you’re playing the big bad villain rather than the virtuous master detective.
While it might look and feel like an old-fashioned whodunnit, from the archetypal cast right down to the interwar setting, Overboard! has an almost sci-fi-like time loop structure at its heart. Your successes and failures in one run will inform the next, and a little automated tick list helps keep you focused in between attempts.
Anything less than emerging from US customs a free and wealthy woman, and you’ll feel enticed to try again. Indeed, failure is nigh on inevitable, as you’re bound to leave several loose threads dangling in your first few play-throughs. If you’re inconsistent with your alibi, or allow yourself to be seen doing something out of the ordinary, you can bet your bottom dollar it’ll be picked up on come the climactic assembly.
The key to success here is efficiency, which means being in the right place at the right time. Navigation around the ship is achieved via a simple 2D plan. Tapping a room will tell you the estimated time of arrival and who will be present when you get there, so you can plan your itinerary like the meticulous heist it is.
The game’s view then breaks into a stylish close-up screen as you explore the area and interact with fellow passengers through contextual text prompts. These sections really show off developer Inkle’s (80 days, Sorcery!) way with snappy dialogue and evocative artwork, with each character given a distinctive personality.
If we were to make any criticism, it’s that Overboard’s looping structure can lead to fatigue. Waking up and exploring your own bathroom again and again can grow a little tiresome after the tenth consecutive time.
But the freshness of the approach, the confidence of the execution, and the precarious tightrope-walk of the narrative-driven gameplay, leads to a day you’ll be happy to live through again and again. After considering all the facts, Inkle killed it.
- Original premise makes you the bad guy
- Clever mix of narrative and logic puzzles
- Striking art style and memorable characters
- Time loop premise inevitably gets repetitive