Overboard review

Move over, broad

Discovering that I’m not very good at covering up murder is one of my more comforting realisations of late. It turns out that killing your spouse – much like backseat driving – seems easy when you’re watching someone else do it, but less straight-forward when your own hands are on the wheel, covered in blood.

Overboard! Is a narrative-driven who-dunnit that is probably better described as a you-dunnit from indie studio, Inkle. The game is set aboard a cruise ship, is drowning in stylish 1930’s vibrance, and – like your deceased husband’s corpse – dropped quietly with little fanfare.

Assuming the role of cunning starlet Veronica Villensey, it’s your job to convince the guests of this ocean liner that you didn’t chuck your rubbish husband into the sea, when you very much did. You have around eight hours to get your story straight in this Agatha Christie-inspired setting, and there’s a lot to pack in. Veronica must move around the ship, engaging in conversations, manipulating other guests and arranging evidence in a way that’ll shift suspicion from herself to literally anyone else on board.

Each time you talk to an NPC or perform an action, time moves forward a little. The ship’s characters will also change location as the day progresses. Timing is crucial if you wish to isolate a guest, have a private altercation without arousing suspicion, or get into a room unseen. After each scene, you’ll get a full view of the ship and the locations of each NPC, which is crucial to planning your next murdery move.

The writing in Overboard is brilliant. What appears as a shallow, manageable loose end will evolve into a multi-faceted drama, and you have to take great care in what you say or do. Even speaking about your husband in past tense can arouse suspicion, as can simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Overboard is immensely replayable and incredibly addictive. I played the game on Nintendo Switch, which sets me up for the evergreen copout line of “it’s a perfect fit on the Switch”. However, the short rounds, casual gameplay and beguiling reruns do make Overboard one of those “perfect Switch” games.  

Each run takes around 20 minutes, and even the most successful run can end in utter chaos.  Just when you think you’ve managed to pull it off, the cast can catch you out in myriad ways. The more you play, the more you learn the character’s motives, whims, and where they’re going to be throughout the day. I had countless rounds where I’d convinced myself I was the greatest mankiller that ever lived, only to have my husband’s death pinned as a suicide at the very last second, or be blackmailed into splitting my fortune with one of the guests because they’d seen me. Furious, I went straight back into a new run to immediately murder that bastard an’ all.

By the fifth go around, my playthroughs had a mental  multi-step battle plan. Fix face, steal keys, gaslight her, drug him, have a pint in the Winchester and wait for it all to blow over. Alas, each well-thought, flawless itinerary still ended in prison or poverty for ol’ Veronica. 

Each playthrough unlocks new avenues, new options and new outcomes. Getting thrown in jail is a small price to pay to learn something new about a particular guest, and the missteps are so slight that the next round seems all the more enticing – this must be the one where you win, right? Right?

With that, there are achievements up for grabs for how you manage you dodge the blame for your crime. Once you’ve mastered the art of nailing your hubby’s demise as a suicide, it’s time to figure out how to get that sweet, sweet insurance payout. Alas! You better make sure there’s no loose ends once you’ve figured that out. And so on.

Overboard kept delighting me with every new discovery, and it was — unlike your husband — absolutely impossible to put down. It’s a narrative triumph, brimming with fun, and one I will keep chipping away until I have mastered the art of wealthy spouse disposal. For educational purposes, obviously.

  • Developer

    Inkle Studios

  • Platform

    PC, Nintendo Switch

  • Release Date

    2nd June 2021

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