Originally announced during a Nintendo Direct back in June, Overboard! called to me the minute I laid eyes on it. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love a good mystery. But what sets Overboard! apart from its neighbors in the mystery/investigation genre of games is that you're not trying to catch a killer—you are the killer, and if you play your cards right, you'll get away with it.
Overboard! opens with a splash, literally and figuratively. It's the dead of night as the scene closes in on Veronica and Malcom Villensey, a married couple standing at the railing of their boat, trying to get a good look at the "dolphins" in the water. But the dolphins are just a ruse to get Malcom close to the edge; with a decisive push from Veronica, overboard he goes!
This top-tier adventure game recently landed on mobile devices, and it definitely belongs among the ranks of our best Android games.
Cue a decisively excellent jazz number as the opening credits roll over Veronica's murderous triumph. The next morning, she awakes in her cabin to the wonderful realization that she really went through with it: She really killed him! Although initially delighted with herself, Veronica crashes back to reality when a steward knocks on the door and notes that her husband is not with her. This is where the deception begins. Are you (as Veronica) smart enough to lie, cheat, steal, blackmail, and even romance your way out of being accused of murder? You'd better damn well hope so.
You'll have to lie, cheat, and blackmail your way out of being accused of a murder you definitely committed.
A text-based experience set to gorgeous graphics, phenomenal audio design, and a superb soundtrack, Overboard! picks up speed in earnest when you exit your cabin and have to spend the next 8 hours slithering your way through to villainous success. Set in 1935 on a voyage between England and the US, the game has a simple fail condition: If the boat docks in America and you haven't successfully dodged the suspicions of the other passengers and crew members, then it's off to Sing Sing prison you go.
I failed in a wonderfully stupid way my first go of it. While trying to slip an old gossip a sleeping pill, I accidentally dosed myself, passed out, slept through the whole day, and wound up being accused of murder whilst taking a nap. KO'd in my cabin and unable to defend my case, I awoke only to be promptly escorted off to Sing Sing prison.
Luckily for me, this is all part of the game's charm, and you are fully expected to fail over and over again until you find the winning combination to sidestep a guilty verdict. The good news is that you retain information you gained during your previous failed attempts. This information manifests as a checklist of loose threads that you can continue to pursue in your next run, adding some needed order and direction to what is otherwise an impressively open-ended game.
By retaining information from past failures, you get one step closer to getting away with it on the next run.
Last time around, you may have gleaned that somebody else on board has a secret. Maybe you can use that to your advantage? Or perhaps last time you lost an earring on deck that someone else found, placing you at the crime scene. In that case, maybe this time you can retrieve the earring before they do? It's a fascinating blend of social tactics, politics, and getting a read on people and situations. I found myself agonizing over options for which direction to take conversations, wondering if my next words would have me in the clear or firmly convicted of murder.
Speaking of which, the writing in this game is top tier. Considering that the game plays out very much like a "choose your own adventure" tale, having fun, intriguing conversations to pick your way through is an absolute must. In many ways, Overboard! gives off a Murder on the Orient Express vibe, with wealthy socialites, gossips, gamblers, and worse all cooped up together with no escape. It's a perfect recipe for scandal, and I absolutely love it.
That being said, I can admit that I doubt this game is for everyone. If you don't enjoy reading, you will, in fact, probably hate this kind of experience. And while the experience overall was outstanding, I noticed a couple of issues that detracted from its excellence.
If you hate reading, this text-based experience isn't for you.
Mainly, for the first time since Forgotton Anne, I noticed that my Galaxy S9 was getting hot while running Overboard. The kind of heat that makes you think you should probably take the case off, just in case your phone melts itself into a puddle. And just like Forgotton Anne as well, Overboard! ate through my battery life like it was being paid to do so.
Admittedly, folks with newer, more powerful phones may not run into the same issues, and I was playing for long sessions at a time. But not everyone will have a powerful gaming phone or a phone with long battery life, and it's a bummer to have to pause gameplay after barely an hour to charge back up.
The other minor issue has more to do with personal playstyles than any failing on the game's part. Originally a PC/console experience, Overboard! really isn't a pick-up-and-play experience like other Android games. You need to dedicate a few longer sit-down sessions to make some actual coherent progress. Each run probably will take you about 30-45 minutes initially, though as you start to learn the different paths you can take, you'll be able to use some of the quality-of-life features to speed things along.
Unlockable features like previous answers highlighted in green or the ability to replay entire scenes exactly the way you did on your previous run are extremely helpful, making the whole process less tedious. The replay value is a big part of the game though; so if you're like me, you'll find that you actively want to go back and try totally new approaches just to see what happens, even if you've already found a path to success elsewhere. Sometimes the failures can be just as fun as the wins!
Overboard! is a quality indie game that can be all yours for the reasonable price of $6.49. I highly recommend this new title to anyone looking for a scintillating adventure experience with no ads or in-app purchases.
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