Overboard (Videogame)

Overboard! is a recently released video game for PC, Mac and Nintendo Switch (EDIT: I missed that it is also available for iOS – thanks Stephen) in which you take the role of socialite Veronica Villensey. You were traveling with your husband to start a new life in America when, while taking the air on deck, you decide on the spur of the moment to toss him overboard and get rid of him once and for all. The problem is that with eight hours until the ship arrives in New York there is still lots of evidence of your crime, not to mention several witnesses who, given time, may put two-and-two together.

As soon as the game begins you find yourself making important decisions that will determine whether you get away with the crime or not. Conversations with characters have multiple speech options and your choices will have consequences. You also direct where Veronica is headed and which of the passengers or crew you will encounter next. Each movement takes time away however and edges you a little nearer to port – a fact you are reminded of by a clock that ticks down the time you have left.

There are lots of different strategies you can pursue, some of which will only become apparent on subsequent play throughs. The game encourages and rewards discovery through trial and error by including more things to do than you can possibly fit into that short time before the ship docks. What that also means is that even after I beat the game for the first time I wanted to go back and try again to see if I could get a completely different approach to work or discover a different character’s secrets.

Whatever you choose in a play through be prepared that your choices will have consequences. Some of these are immediately apparent – a decision to admit something in conversation may close off some possibilities or open up new ones – while some will only become clear at the end of your play through. The first time I evaded the detective’s questions I was sure I had got away with everything only to find another loose end had kept me from achieving a perfect run. A big part of the fun here is in figuring out exactly what choices led you astray and revisiting them to see if you can improve your outcomes.

The cartoonish art style is simple and charming, designed to give you a sense of a character’s personality rather than depict each action or their lip movements. It won’t be mistaken for a triple A release (and is not priced as such) but is appropriate for this sort of storytelling-focused game, supporting the text rather than distracting from it. You can get a sense of the animation from the game trailer though be warned that it does provide some pretty heavy hints to a few story points.

Given that you will replay the events of the same day over and over again, players have the ability to speed through familiar conversations which reduces frustration when you get caught in a loop. If you make a mistake, and act fast enough, you can even rewind a scene once to give yourself a chance to select a better option if a choice didn’t give the outcome you expected. It’s a simple but effective game mechanic that lets you replay a decision rather than having to start over and recreate all of your choices up to that point.

Another charming aspect of the game is that each play through is relatively short. Assuming your character remains conscious and alive throughout the journey, you can expect it to take between thirty and forty-five minutes to complete a run (and you can speed this up further by skipping dialogue as mentioned above). This makes it an ideal game to quickly dip into for short gaming sessions.

Aside from a few snippets of speech at the beginning, the dialogue appears as text rather than spoken. The dialogue plays with some mystery tropes and conventions but can be decidedly modern in places, depending on your playing strategy and the characters you interact with. In other words, I enjoyed this as a pastiche of the Golden Age-style whodunnit rather than as an attempt to perfectly recreate it.

Overall then I am happy to say that I found Overboard! to be a pretty enjoyable experience. It has already given me three or four hours of entertainment and I feel I still have other things left to do and see and I will look forward to dipping into it from time to time to see if I can experience every possible outcome. If you enjoy choose your own adventure-style gameplay and lightly comic pastiches, you may well enjoy this too.