Murder Is Hard Work
HIGH Finding out what was making noise in (redacted)’s cabin.
LOW It’s easy to screw up a run with a single bad click.
WTF That is one of the most unusual hint systems ever!
If one is looking to commit the perfect crime, a boat on the open ocean is likely the best place to do it. Simply pushing someone off is a simple method for doing away with a victim, and a murderer can be certain that any evidence tossed into the ocean will never be seen again. Honestly, it seems fairly difficult to not get away with a killing committed at sea.
As one might guess by the lead-in, homicide is the main goal of Overboard. This title casts players as Veronica, a new bride on a journey from Europe to America. When things begin, she pushes her hubby right into the deep. At this point the player takes control and has to deal with the ‘getting away with it‘ part.
Overboard’s most notable achievement is how effectively it manages to maintain a light tone despite all of the killing and nefarious behavior. It helps that the deceased husband was a literal British Nazi so the player won’t be sad to see him go, but that’s far from the only murder it’s possible to commit. There are witnesses, suspicious travelers, and even a would-be detective determined to solve the case. It’s up to the player to use lies, deceit and manipulation to sideline all possible accusers and make it to New York a free woman.
Accomplishing this plays out as a visual novel with an extremely tight time limit. Veronica wakes at 8AM on the day after the murder, and she has until 4PM to get everything squared away. Every activity, from traveling between locations to talking to passengers to planting evidence eats up precious time. Likewise, each passenger has a schedule they follow over the course of the day which the player will have to learn if they want to effectively manage them on subsequent playthroughs.
Going back through the game time and again is at the heart of Overboard’s design. It takes between 10-20 minutes to complete an entire adventure and get an ending, but it’s going to take multiple attempts to get the ending one would prefer. To truly succeed, the player must secure both Veronica’s freedom and the insurance policy payout from her husband’s death. If she wants the money, she’ll have to convince the investigators that not only is she innocent, but that someone else is guilty since suicides don’t get payouts.
The developers have made sure to build in all sorts of bells and whistles to ensure that replaying scenes is never a monotonous chore. Players can skip previously-read text, there’s a Hitman-style journal to remind them of mysteries that need to be investigated, and there’s even a function that highlights the choices made on the last run, allowing players to specifically tweak a few things here and there to see how events might have gone a little differently.
Overboard is a brief experience, but the depth of content makes playing it over and over again an absolute must. Everyone on the ship has secrets to ferret out, and the script is so well-written that I found myself resetting the game just to see how obviously terrible choices would play out. Overboard asks for a tiny time commitment, but it’s such a charming experience and so easy to zip through that I’d imagine players will find themselves compelled to keep trying until they get away scot-free with the cash.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by inkle. It is currently available on PC, iOS and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 5 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed countless times. The are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: This game was rated T by the ESRB and contains Mild Violence, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol, Language, and Simulated Gambling. It’s a game about getting away with murder. Also there’s drinking, drug use, smoking and sexual references. Keep kids away!
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: I played the majority of the game without audio and encountered zero difficulties. All dialogue is subtitled and all vital information is provided visually. Subtitles cannot be resized. (See examples above.) This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, the game’s controls are not remappable. There is no control diagram. Players control the game with a mouse, clicking on the screen to select conversation options.