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‘Overboard!’ Review: An Inverted Murder Mystery Of Witty Wickedness

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‘Overboard!’ Review: An Inverted Murder Mystery Of Witty Wickedness

Everyone loves a good, old-fashioned whodunnit, right? The way the pieces all come together to form a clear picture of the culprit, the satisfaction as hunches solidify into clues, and later to damning evidence. But more often than not, we see these investigations from the perspective of the do-gooder, the Poirot or the Miss Marple or Sherlock Holmes. In video games, we're always solving the crimes - we're cast as Cole Phelps, never Leland Monroe. But Overboard! flips that dynamic on its head, and feels fantastic for having us play the villain.

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Overboard! is the latest title from British studio Inkle, whose past releases 80 Days and Heaven's Vault were both celebrated as outstanding interactive novels. Unlike those games, Overboard! was created by a small team within the studio, in a strict two-month window, and released in early June 2021 without a pre-release trailer or any kind of attention-building preview information. It was announced, and it was out, on the same day. And the result of this tight-turnaround production is a slick and streamlined, eminently replayable affair that asks you to explore each and every possible scenario available to you, as you seek to clear your name against the clock.

Watch the launch trailer for Overboard!, below...

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Like 80 Days, Overboard! is all about conversation - about digging for tells, overhearing whispers, and sneaking suspicion-stirring snippets from loose lips. Speaking of which, the game's setting - the SS Hook, just coming into New York after sailing from the UK - isn't actually likely to sink, despite the fears of some passengers. But there's definitely something in the water, and that something is there entirely of your doing.

Overboard! begins with actress Veronica Villensey - villains-y, heh - nudging her husband over the railings of the SS Hook. Her reasoning is calculated - the couple are heading to America with her career on the decline and his fortunes equally on the slide, so the lure of a life insurance payout is enough for our character to commit murder. But despite bumping off Malcolm under the cover of darkness, it's soon apparent that Veronica's crime wasn't quite as secretive as it should have been - and it's on the player to prevent the murder being pinned on her.

Overboard! / Credit: Inkle Ltd
Overboard! / Credit: Inkle Ltd
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There are other reasons why Veronica wants rid of her husband - but let's not go there, here, because spoilers. Indeed, it's hard to rummage around in the plot of Overboard! too much, because this is all about the plot. And, more importantly, how you come to shape it, caress it, over a number of playthroughs, each time learning a new trick or two: a way to gain entry to a cabin you shouldn't be in, and what to look for when you're there; the right time to accidentally bump off someone else who might be snooping a little too much for their own good. There are tears, there are cocktails, and the supporting cast is always ready to just spill a little too much, at just the right time, for Veronica to steadily build her defence into an unbreakable fortress.

Inkle's writing here is, just as it was in 80 Days, exemplary - every conversion is a maze of opportunities, with plenty of wittiness and a pinch of snarkiness folded into the compelling proceedings. With the ship always maintaining its course into harbour, Veronica has a strict time limit of just over seven in-game hours to ensure she doesn't start her new life in the States in the slammer - but you won't win her everything she desires on your first attempt. Or your second. And probably not your sixth, either. The joy of this game is in the going back, the trying of something new, and being ever so devious and devilish about it. Along the way, smaller objectives are ticked off, but the main mission remains the same: clear your name, get that payout. And do please watch where you leave those earrings, dear.

Overboard! / Credit: Inkle Ltd
Overboard! / Credit: Inkle Ltd
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Moving Veronica around the ship is effortless via a side-on view of the vessel, and there are a few unexpected surprises to be found - it's not just the other passengers and crew who'll speak to you, if you know where to look for answers. On each replay, past choices will be suitably marked, so that you'll always know where a new way forward lies; and a scorecard at the end of each run gives you a little assessment of where you succeeded or, more likely at first, where you totally failed to cover your tracks.

It all adds up to a small but perfectly formed experience that any fan of a good murder mystery is recommended to investigate - if only to see how the other half does things. Inkle's reputation for interactive storytelling was already stellar, and you really must play 80 Days if you've not - but if Overboard! is a sign of what the studio can achieve in the same amount of time it takes some of us to choose a pair of curtains or decide which new-gen console to pick up when we can, well, what a team, frankly.

Pros: sharply written script, easy interfaces, achievements are clear throughout

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Cons: once you have worked out a 'perfect' run there's little reason to play again

For fans of: 80 Days, Phoenix Wright, Telling Lies

8/10: Excellent

Overboard! is available now on Steam, iOS and Nintendo Switch (version tested). Code provided by the publisher. Find a guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.


Featured Image Credit: Inkle

Topics: Mobile Games, PC, Indie Games

Mike Diver
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