Overboard!

A guilty pleasure of mine has always been old mystery dramas like Father Brown, Miss Marple, and Poirot. Sometimes overly convoluted and reaching a bit with their conclusions, but I adore their styles, charismatic protagonists, overactors, and gorgeous settings where terrible deeds occurred. Playing as a detective and solving crimes is nothing new, but taking on the role of the actual murderer and trying to get away with it is a neat concept. I could not have imagined anyone else capturing this idea better than Inkle and I am excited to see what they came up with!


Relations on this ship

In the summer of 1935, you boarded a ship headed for New York with your husband Malcolm. Despite being the former starlet, Veronica Villensey, you have apparently found yourself in financial troubles and in a loveless marriage. The night before you dock at the land of opportunities, you seize your moment by pushing your man overboard, ending his life. Now you have to make sure that no one finds out what you have done.

This is the general premise of this title, with only eight in-game hours to make sure you get out of this predicament. It is here where the strength of Inkle’s storytelling comes forth, as you decide on how this should be played out by making important choices. Perhaps you will go over the crime scene to make sure you did not forget anything? Maybe it would be smart to get acquainted with the other passengers, such as the old soldier or the charming gambler? Although, blaming someone else for your partner’s death could give you an advantage, right?

Every single possibility has to be carefully considered and approached, with some improvisations on the spot also being required! It really makes for an immersive setting since your actions have consequences, escalating the playthrough nicely. The plot itself is just as solid as a traditional mystery episode, with a small cast that fills up familiar tropes, like the gossiping old woman. None of them is really deep or has a vast personality, but fits this stylish take on the 1930s well.

Another thing that helps is that you have a good amount of options for how to respond, which makes it so you can play Veronica as you please, providing some role-playing to this visual novel. Should you wish for more substance, there are subtle insights into each character’s pasts that can offer more lore to them. Even if these do not make them more memorable, they are intriguing notes on their own. This is all topped off with a serious story that is not afraid to have lighthearted and humorous moments included, without them becoming too much of a contrast to the overall murder scene. Similar to a pair of loafers; it is hard to not appreciate this project’s comfortable simplicity. 

Story Score: 7/10


Groundhog boat

Inkle has always been great at making sure that their narrative games have interactivity at the forefront, and this title is no exception. The second you wake up, the clock is ticking and decisions have to be made. Besides choosing how to act towards the people you meet, you also have to figure out which areas you want to visit, what items you wish to pick up, and generally how to spend your last few hours on this boat.

This is one aspect I am surprised is not heavily streamlined. Every scenario gives you three options on what to do or say, but they will correlate to previous actions, providing plenty of roads to take. Luckily, you are restricted to this one ship, which makes exploration more focused. There is not too much inventory management either, but whenever an item can be picked up or utilized, Overboard! offers you the opportunity to do so. Although, taking specific trinkets can make you more suspicious, which is a clever touch to not make the player into a complete kleptomaniac.

However, you cannot take too long to plan out what to do next since the clock is ticking and the passengers move alongside it. Because of this, it is a helpful detail that you will be able to see where they will go towards before you visit another location yourself. Without being overwhelmed by guessing where the characters will be at specific moments, you can go so far as to break into one of the cabins unseen or find someone to play cards with in order to earn some cash. It is all up to you, but you do not have all day.

In fact, one playthrough can take about 30 minutes depending on how fast you read. This is due to how this game is meant to be replayed multiple times, as there are different endings to achieve and each run offers more information that you might not have been aware of before. A hint bubble on top of the screen even occurs whenever you have come across something significant. While I cannot say it is needed, it can be a supportive tool for those struggling with this title.

Another admirable design is how the achievements require you to find alternative routes that can be subtle ways to either guide you into getting the best outcome of this trip or give you more things to see. These can be extremely tricky tasks to take on, but they force you to think creatively and try out new approaches. Revisits are also much faster by letting you skip text that you have already read and you can ring a bell at any moment in order to prove your innocence early on, making sure nothing drags on unnecessarily.

Truth to be told, I only have a couple of criticisms toward Overboard!. Despite it being short and made to be replayed, there are certain routes you might be taking repeatedly in the hopes to get a specific event to occur, which can be tedious. Not to mention, it is easy to be done with this title in one sitting and it is even harder to be experimentative when all four endings have been seen due to the lack of rewards on these journeys. Still, my time spent with it was tense, entertaining, and captivating. Like a good mystery novel should be!

Gameplay and Extra Score: 8/10


Colourful ride

I admire the simplistic art of this game that is akin to expressionism, as it fits perfectly with the sophisticated cast on board with appropriate and cultural clothing for its era. This huge focus on using colours for creating details instead of lines, is lovely recreated to even include effects such as lighting. The addition of comic borders also gives a sense of the location you are in and which characters are talking, providing a nice stylistic flavour that is commendable. I do wish we could see more of the areas around than minor glimpses used as backgrounds though, as they feel empty and uninteresting. This is the only issue the visuals have, but one that is definitely noticeable.

What truly elevates the whole setting, is the audio. The ambient sounds of the ocean waving or cards being shuffled offer great immersion, with the rest of the effects being just as diverse and strong. While not nearly as common to hear, there are some lovely implementations of music throughout that would be common in the 1930s. Barbershop for the intro, jazz being performed by the US Army Band, and some tracks that are diegetic by sounding like they come from the radio, all of the tracks enhance the experience even further.

Amelia Tyler also deserves a mention for giving a gripping voice as the protagonist, making it a shame she was not more utilized. Actually, Overboard!‘s minimalism can be a problem for some due to feeling too restricted in its presentation. However, I would argue it does everything with high quality within its limitations, to the point that revisits never got dull visually. Certainly not to everyone’s taste, but obviously made with care.

Presentation Score: 8/10


Verdict

Probably the best description I can give this title is cosy. It has a wonderful atmosphere thanks to its traditional characters set in a sweet episode of a murder mystery, with a neat twist on its setup. By focusing on having your interactions drive the story forward and forcing you to be clever with your choices, it makes you clearly a part of this ride. It is nothing grand and replaying it can give too many moments of deja vu, but everything is made with great understanding and love for this genre, to the point that this project should please any fan of crime shows.

75/100

Published by slionr

A guy who likes to talk about video games and loves tabletop gaming. Writer for corruptsavefile.com, you can always follow me on twitter @GSlionr if you ever want the latest article from me :)

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