Overboard! Indie Snippet
A macabre fact is that nothing tickles the brain quite like a murder mystery. Agatha Christie novels are an institution, every twist and turn and mustachioed investigator more intriguing than the last. Video games often put players in the shoes of detectives (occasionally even the World’s Greatest Detective), but players are also no stranger to acting as an antihero. But in Overboard!, players muster their wits to get away with murder, instead of trying to solve one. A stylish and sleek reverse murder-mystery, Overboard! is a devilishly entertaining adventure where no evil deed goes unpunished and every second counts.
Murder on the S.S. Hook
Overboard! isn’t concerned with who, but rather how. Because the “who” is you, the player and murderess in question, and the “how” is more along the lines of “how do you think you’ll get out of this mess without getting caught?”. The game kicks off on a clear moonlit night aboard a transatlantic ship named the S.S. Hook, where villainous villainess Veronica Villensys has sent her good-for-nothing husband Malcolm to his death by pushing him into the dark ocean waters below. Players take control the next morning, as Veronica wakes up to the steward knocking at her chamber door. It is 8am, and the Hook is still hours away from docking in New York City. Players are tasked with preventing other passengers from discovering the truth, and getting Veronica safely to harbor, preferably without leaving the ship in handcuffs. Whether she succeeds or fails in her efforts, the action resets back to 8am after every playthrough. It’s Live, Die, Repeat plus Twelve Little Indians, with a dash of razzle-dazzle, Jazz Age flair.
The main action of Overboard! involves selecting different dialogue options and gathering information to weaponize later. What might initially seem limiting turns out to be extremely freeing, as the slightest difference in response choice can lead to wildly different and entertaining outcomes as the day goes on. But player beware: choices have consequences. Every decision, whether talking to the ship steward through the cabin door or nonchalantly visiting the restaurant for an afternoon martini, takes up valuable time. Every character on the ship has their own schedule to keep, but Veronica has influence over these schedules, and wielding that influence intelligently is the key to success.
While Veronica is clearly the antihero protagonist, every character aboard the Hook has their own motivations. There’s English dandy Carstairs, a card sharp with a surprising secret. The charmingly handsome Anders steers the ship, and has eyes seemingly everywhere. And of course no voyage would be complete without the old gossip Lady H0, an upper-class drunk who sticks her nose into everyone else’s business. All of these characters have distinct personalities that shine thanks to excellent writing, even as they all represent different tropes of the genre.
No matter the events of the day, there is always one constant: an all-hands meeting at the restaurant where accusations fly and Veronica’s fate is sealed. Much like the final chapter of any good Christie mystery, a calm, collected character does their best to put two and two together while the murderer sits and stews. This is often the most tense part of any given playthrough of Overboard!, and also where players can glean useful information that might come in handy during a future run. Will players have hoodwinked the right passengers, or did they fail to take into account one small detail that undoes all their careful planning? It’s just as thrilling to see things fall apart as it is to skate by without breaking a sweat. Even after manipulating events in their favor, unexpected twists abound for the player.
Overboard! is best played in short bursts; a single “day” can be completed in ten minutes or even less. It’s a perfect fit for the Nintendo Switch and the system’s portability ensures that another playthrough is always on the horizon. The game feels like a shot in the arm after enduring June’s endless array of pre-rendered trailers. Jumping in and covering up a murder is a truly exciting prospect, and Overboard! doesn’t shy away from adult themes despite the bright, splashy color palette.
Veronica is a cold-blooded killer, but she’s also resourceful and keenly aware of how to get what she wants. Overboard! is much more than saying the right thing to the right character at the appropriate time. Veronica can plant evidence, sow distrust, and even commit additional murders if the situation calls for it. Not every set of actions will lead to her escaping with her late husband’s insurance money, but any outcome where she doesn’t spend the rest of her days locked up in Sing Sing feels like victory.
Overboard! is an adult-themed treat for mystery fans. It’s devilishly smart and sexy, packing a lot into a small package. Inkle has a history of developing adventure games that are extraordinarily well-written and surprisingly deep, and Overboard! is an excellent addition to their already-great lineup of games. For those who grew up on Clue and Poirot but enjoyed the modern twists and more mature sensibilities of Knives Out, Overboard! will scratch a very particular itch.