Crime stories are always quite hard to do. Being a genre loaded with cliches and regurgitated stories, it's become harder and harder to enjoy them as their, often contrived, story reaches its conclusion. A great crime story will stand out, but oftentimes they are so caught up in the very essence of being shocking that they lose any real edge they started out with. Overboard! did something that I wasn’t expecting from a crime game—it surprised me. This is a very good thing.
I’m going to keep this review fairly light on spoilers as one of the greatest parts about the game is unwrapping the mystery at its center. That being said, here is the elevator pitch. Overboard! has you play the role of Veronica Villensey who has departed to America with her rich and, presumably, well-known husband. At the very start, you throw him overboard to drown with the simple press of a button. That prompt sparks alive the game as you wake up the morning after, head spinning and disoriented, searching for clues around the ship, ready to get away with murder. Overboard! is a whodunit where you are who has “dunit”.
Onboard that ship are a cast of likable and varied characters, all with different desires and thoughts. Getting around the story is done by understanding and manipulating characters. Perhaps the more analytical can be confused through conflicting decisions, the more emotional may be easier to pin it on. The way it makes you psychoanalyze what are essentially pieces of code is fascinating. I almost felt bad in my own manipulation pinning evidence on people. Playing the character of the rather on the nose Villensey comes with a surprising weight to interactions.
Overboard! only managed to hook me like this due to its charming atmosphere and intriguing time management system. Having conversations and moving from each part of the boat takes time. This means where you might discover key evidence in one run at 10 am could find it missing by 11, only for that to be used against you later. You need to make a diagram in your head of the optimal path through each route and execute to achieve your goal, whatever that may be. Every time you fail or don’t succeed quite enough, you awake once again, the night after killing your companion. Everything's the same except you and the information you hold. This time, you’ll get it right. This time, you will finally win.
It’s good the game is so utterly enthralling as replaying the same sections with small differences can get rather tedious in the game's lowest moments. One of the worst culprits for this is the moments right after you wake. There are a few decisions you will often take so repeating them each time becomes a bit of a hassle. This is displaced somewhat by Villensey herself when you wake up, offering you a little bit more information on what you should be doing. Overboard! also offers a handy little checkbox to tick off all those loose ends you couldn't discover last time.
In this sense, one of the greatest parts of Overboard! is discovering the depth of all the characters around you. Going around with something to hide often leaves you oblivious to the secrets of others. You are so obsessed with how you look that you often forget to really look at them. This is where the writing really shines. Overboard!, on the surface, very intentionally builds on many of the cliches of the genre but it flips them in ways that those who know how to spot them will really enjoy. Where many crime stories use those cliches to pad out the story or welcome a new hook, Overboard! uses them as its background only to twist the knife and cause much more damage than you otherwise thought. It intentionally underwhelms you to pull back those layers, revealing something much deeper than it originally offers.
This isn’t to say Overboard! is some unfathomably deep game, but it offers just enough under the surface to keep you ticking away at it while its jazzy soundtrack and enchanting storytelling keep you clicking. There’s a warm, hushed atmosphere to everything that is only further enunciated with its visuals. There are a lot of browns and oranges in the background of the boat where characters feel more vibrant and intentional, with each character fitting central colour themes. Everything just feels so intentional in its design. When the game takes you down a path, it takes you there with the confidence of a killer.
Overboard! Review — Verdict
Overboard! is a very interesting beast. Created in just a handful of months, the finished product is an intriguing whodunit that feels free and unrestricted. Lifted from the confines of something more simple like a visual novel or interactive story, there is a real brilliance at its core that strives to stand out in its genre. If this is your type of game, Overboard! is an obvious must-buy. If it's not, you should try it out anyway, it’s fantastic.
TechRaptor reviewed Overboard! on PC using a copy provided by the publisher. You can also play it on Nintendo Switch, iOS, and android.
- Good storytelling
- Great idea
- Refined and interesting
- Genuinely charming and often funny
- Could do more to skip pointless decisions