Overwhelm (Switch eShop) Review
There are plenty of games out there threatening to stomp on your balls (or lady equivalents) for sheer sadistic enjoyment. Overwhelm is another of these that aims to test your skill, patience and mental stability, but in a way that’s less frustrating for being unfairly punishing and more because, well… you might suck as much as I do.
Overwhelm is a 2D sidescroller/twin-stick shooter mash up, topped off with some Soulsborne elements. There are no upgrades or complex systems of any type: you simply run, jump, melee or shoot, and all of these are entirely customisable so as to accommodate your skills with twin-stick moving and aiming. The goal is to kill off five giant monsters holed up in opposite corners of the game’s world, in any order desired. Between you and them are pathways and platforms, sprinkled with various creatures to gun down. But here’s the twist: upon killing a boss, its power is transferred to similar enemy-types, thus increasing their aggression and difficulty. Basically, the more you push into the game, the more the game pushes back.
Now, I’ve beaten a couple of the Darks Souls games, so I’m no stranger to the frustration of getting my arse kicked. But what I love about Overwhelm is how well-developed its sense of atmosphere is. It uses short, unsettling dialogue to inform the player of changes: after each boss’s defeat, a warning pops up to inform that the hive, the aliens you’ve set to wipe out, have evolved to take on the traits of the currently-slain monster. At these moments, when you’ve just accomplished a challenge, you’re reminded the game isn’t about to slow down; rather it reiterates its rules, and it’s up to you if you’re hard enough to come out the other side.
And what’s really interesting to me is how simple, yet entirely effective the experience is. Graphically the game’s 8-bit style mostly uses only three colours: red, black and white. But every environment, enemy and boss is so distinct despite the low-fi design, and I was always completely aware and engaged with every moment. Even the music is conservative; the main bulk of the game, which is platforming through passages and killing hive critters, is void of any tune. That is, until a boss fight begins and the dreaded synth pulse from the main title kicks in to really set the horror tone of the game.
Each boss is unique and has two stages, the second being the trait that passes on to other hive aliens (for example: some might spit acid, or others might climb walls). And the climax of the game is really something to look forward to – I won’t spoil it, but it was probably one of the most satisfying endings to a game I’ve experienced this year.
But as mentioned earlier, Overwhelm is tough, and to complete it I had to take advantage of some optional game settings: I had to set lives to unlimited and turn on unlimited ammo, as the increasing difficulty really bit back at me. By default, the game limits ammo to 99 shots (though they can be replenished by returning to the hub area) and the player will die from a single hit, with only three chances before game over (with no way to recover chances/lives, despite your progress). There’s the opportunity to save and quit to the menu, but returning to the game picks right back up from you stopped. Playing with the default settings means the game will reset after game over, and you’ll have to start from the beginning all over again. However, the one compromise Overwhelm offers is being able to start over from right outside a boss area of your choosing after defeating it for the first time – but this can only be done once per restart. You’ll still have to venture on foot from then-on unless you get game over.
Overwhelm, to me, is one of those small, must-play games that
- It’s tough
- Boss battles and that climax
- Might be too tough for some (adjust those settings)
- Short with forgiving settings