Thursday, April 4

Review: OVERWHELM [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Setting out to make a challenging game has got to be an interesting process. There are many elements that can amp up the degree of difficulty in games, and when you begin combining them I’d imagine it’s a real balancing act trying to push to the limit of frustration without necessarily taking it too far. Off to the side there’s another risk though, and that’s the potential of combining factors in a way that feels cheap. While there will certainly be people who’ll enjoy taking on the pretty brutal challenge that OVERWHELM offers up, it’s hard not to feel that too many deaths in it aren’t earned fairly, and that can be frustrating in a bad way.

Starting with the basics this is a platforming shooter where you’re able to fire in any direction, punch, and uppercut. One of the more interesting aspects of the game is how you won’t just use your attacks for offense, they’re also pretty crucial for making tough jumps if you’ve got the timing and technique down. Anyway, your goal is to make your way through the environment, taking care of some more minor (though lethal) enemies along the way, to get to the the game’s bosses that are roughly at the corners of the map.

Boss battles are intense and each plays out quite differently to keep things interesting. Your goal is to defeat them, collect their gem, and then return it to the hub. One of the trickier things is that for each gem you collect all of the game’s generic enemies will get an added attribute making them even more dangerous, so with progress comes even more challenge heaped on. I suppose this would potentially encourage strategies for which order to attack bosses in to try to keep the enemy upgrade paths a bit more manageable.

The problem with the game is that it while up to a point the challenge is reasonably fair, it then does some things that go over the top. One hit and you’re dead… OK, not so much a fan but can deal with dying to some small flying thing I missed. As you die, or sometimes just in certain areas of the map, your field of view gets restricted? This kind of blows, especially when combined with one-hit deaths since enemies already have a tendency to spring out of nowhere as it is, and now you’re compounding this, especially as everything continues to get more nimble and lethal as you progress. I think where the game really lost me is how on top of this the bosses have a tendency to just sort of blink out suddenly and move somewhere else randomly. You’re locked in, feeling like you’ve figured things out and in a good position and then bang, they’re gone, you’ve got a restricted field of view, and you end up accidentally running into them and dying because it turns out now they were behind you. I suppose you could argue that all of this is meant to build suspense and excitement… but to me it’s just cheap.

If you’re willing to either ignore or deal with OVERWHELM’s tendency towards lame (and I’d argue often unearned) deaths it can be pretty challenging and even exciting. Tension is good, making people work for the win is good, I’m just critical of how and how much the deck is stacked against the player by default. I wouldn’t assume this is by accident, it all feels very much by design, and I can respect the decision even if I don’t particularly agree with it. That leaves me to say there’s a solid game here that the right audience should absolutely eat up, just with the understanding that by design that audience is likely to be pretty small in the end.

Score: 6

  • Aesthetically it has a simple but effective look
  • The variety in the bosses is interesting
  • Does a very good job of creating tension

  • The deck is a bit too stacked against the player, and some of the cards are outright cheap
  • I really despise the way the enemy bosses will blink and move somewhere else