Game Review #243: OVERWHELM (Nintendo Switch)
Updated: Oct 8, 2019
Reviewer: Chad M.
Developer: Ruari O'Sullivan
Category: Action, Platformer
Release Date: 4.4.2019
Price (at time of review): $9.99
Buy OVERWHELM from the eShop here.
Guns Up & Don’t Get Overwhelmed
As far as Metroidvania side-scrolling platformers go, we have so many choices on the ever-growing eShop, but not every game can be Hollow Knight, so I’m always looking when a new game in the genre comes out to see if it does something new and inventive. This one was giving me good vibes out of the gate, when I started playing and saw it had horror exploration elements mixed in. So now I was excited to give OVERWHELM by indie developer Ruari O'Sullivan a spin.
First, a quick overview of the storyline, as it’s extremely simple: in this sci-fi horror elemental game, you play as a futuristic female warrior who rides in to destroy a hive of killer monsters/aliens. In a nut shell, that’s the whole story. So, it’s fairly light on plot, but with games like this, I tend to lean more towards the gameplay than plot as my buying factor.
I’m Seeing Red Again!
OVERWHELM’s controls like the story, are streamlined and simple, with the left stick for moving around and the right for aiming. L1 jumps with a double jump, and ZL is an uppercut to help you land on those hard-to-reach places, while R1 shoots. The controls are tight and play perfectly well, which means when you complete an action it is precise, and when you die, it’s your fault and yours alone—and prepare to die quite a bit in this game.
You start off plugging into a cavernous pit to destroy the hive. In doing so, you’ll need to defeat 5 bosses and collect the gems after doing so. The catch is, you only have 3 lives that only reset after defeating a boss, and only 99 bullets that you have to find a reloading station, which are primarily going to be found right before boss fights. This is where the game gets tough, as you have to pick your shots carefully, not just throwing caution to the wind and firing blindly at baddies, which left me running and platforming around them when I could safely do so.
The other half is the 3 lives, as it’s a one-hit-and-you’re-dead type of system, and if you lose all three lives, it’s back to the beginning for a full restart. Now, for seasoned gamers, this is the sweet spot, because the game can be tough as hell—especially the further you go—and you can easily spend 3 lives on just a boss alone. The boss fights are epic and fun, just as they should be, and the music changes the fights, making them become very intense.
Part of the game, whether it is normal monsters or the bosses, is that the attacks are completely random, and enemies can appear from anywhere—and I mean that quite literally, as I sometime would have an enemy just drop on my head out of nowhere, killing me before I could react. The bosses would do similar things. I’d have the upper hand, shooting the hell out of them, and the screen would blink, then they’d disappear and then reappear behind me! This was jarring the first time, but you begin to adapt and trust nothing.
Also, once you defeat a boss, normally you’d get an upgraded weapon or a power up, but nope… instead, the hive evolves and every monster in the game takes on the characteristics of the boss you defeated, making the game even harder as you go along. I thought this was quite genius, as so many games keep leveling you up and making you feel almost godlike by the end, whereas OVERWHELM always lets you know that you’re outnumbered and outgunned, but you still have to find a way. When the screen flashes during battles it would display an image. I kept screen grabbing until I finally saw that it appeared to be a Rorschach test image, which only made this entire experience that much more creepy.
Now, for non-seasoned gamers, there is an option for aim assist and unlimited lives and ammo, but that’s only if you want the easy way out. For me, it kills the experience when you are just playing haphazardly not caring if you die, because it removes the risk/reward system.
You have a map you can pull up that’s very helpful to find every nook and cranny and not get lost. There is also a co-op mode that’s exclusive to the Switch. Now, it was a fun time playing co-op, but also equally frustrating, as the person playing with you has to be at a high skill level to keep up or they’ll get you killed a lot. So, I preferred playing in single-player, but glad the option to play co-op made its way over.
Audio & Visuals
The music was dark and ominous, and with a heavy synth sound, it matched the tone of the game very well. The ambient sounds in OVERWHELM are done exceptionally well, with creepy sounds lurking in the background and the sound effects punching through the screen, whether it’s just something as simple as footsteps or the booming sound your gun makes while firing it.
I sometimes tell myself, “That’s it, not another pixel art styled game!” then I get my hands on one done as solidly as OVERWHELM and all that goes out the window. I really enjoyed the art in the game. The levels weren’t super groundbreaking, but everything else felt really well-done, even if it’s not super detailed. Another thing to note: the game gave me a heavy Nintendo Virtual Boy vibe, with the red and black color scheme. Now, this can be changed in settings to blue and black, or various other colors, but I couldn’t even think of that, as I had felt like I’d stumbled onto a long-forgotten unreleased Virtual Boy game, and wanted to keep that vibe going.
It’s A Wrap!!!
OVERWHELM is a gritty and creepy game that’s a lot of fun and extremely challenging with its choice to make the enemies evolve as the game progresses. I think the price point is fair, and if you’re a fan of this genre, you have to have this in your collection. I stress that you should avoid the unlimited lives and ammo, as it takes away from the overall experience, but adding the aim assist may help to get you through the brutal journey to destroy the hive. This is one I’ll be playing for a long time to come, as I enjoy playing it and the gameplay is so fun! So grab your gun and jump into the hive!
Buy OVERWHELM from the eShop here.
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*Review Code Provided by popagenda