Genre(s): Adventure, Interactive Fiction, Detective
Platform: PC (Also available on Nintendo Switch and the App Store)
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 02.06.21
A code was provided for review purposes
In February, I positively reviewed Inkle’s Heaven’s Vault so when the team announced and immediately released the “reverse whodunnit” Overboard, I was immediately interested. Are the mysteries of Inkle’s more grounded title worth solving? Find out my thoughts in this Rapid Review.
Get away with murder!
There’s been a murder on the SS Hook cruise ship and it’s quickly established that you, the player, are responsible for this despicable deed! As such, this interactive fiction is less murder-mystery and more ‘who-else-can-I-pin-the murder on’ simulator. Overboard is designed for multiple playthroughs and could perhaps be described as a narrative roguelike where my progress came in the form of the knowledge learnt about my fellow passenger’s routines and insight. What more, this title was remarkably made in just a few months in early 2021.
Beneath the surface
Rather than the sprawling galaxy seen in Heaven’s Vault or the entire globe as with 80 Days, Overboard takes place on a cruise liner with just nine locations where secrets are hidden and passengers lurk. The game’s interface is deceptively simple with large buttons for dialogue choices, easy-to-read fonts, and easily digestible information about who’s where on the ship. Yet, the game’s narrative systems take on Inkle’s signature complexity. Choices really do matter as characters remember actions and dialogue. My innocuous ruffling of the murdered husband’s bedsheets seems nonconsequential yet when the maid revealed that the bed was slept in, my alibi that my husband went missing the night before became completely unravelled. This choice and consequence runs through each playthrough, generally taking around 20 minutes from beginning to end. I appreciated the short runtime as I could experiment with various alibis. Do I poison the matriarch Lady H’s drink to stop her from revealing her suspicions or should I try and establish a rapport and trust that our newfound friendship withstands when questioned? Whatever the decision, the consequences are revealed at the end of the day where all passengers share their alibis, conversations and evidence in a Poirot-style interrogation.
Yet despite the subject matter of murder, there’s a light-hearted approachable nature to the game. Dialogue is well written yet avoids overly complex lexis, the art-deco inspired illustrated portraits of characters are full of colour and some upbeat jazz features throughout. The game is funny too. In one section, I thought it be best to empty my husband’s suitcase into the ocean and when someone (not knowing it was I that conducted the suitcase emptying) spoke about their incredulous sight of seeing clothes fall past their windows, the absurdity provided a great moment of humour.
Overboard is guilty of providing wickedly good fun and Inkle’s signature narrative systems once again mesh and weave together to create a true ‘choices matter’ game. I’d highly recommend setting sail on the SS hook. And who knows, you may even get away with murder.
Rapid Reviews Rating
4 out of 5
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.