Board game fans know the value of having one short, casual title in their collection – something that everyone can jump into for a quick 15- to 30-minute session between longer games. Overboard!, from British developers inkle, is the video game equivalent of the best of these filler experiences: easy to play, engrossing, and addictively replayable.
It doesn’t hurt that this bite-size “next-gen visual novel” – arguably the most accessible effort yet from the makers of 80 Days and Heaven’s Vault – has an irresistibly clever premise. Overboard! takes the Agatha Christie-era whodunnit and flips it on its head. Instead of solving a murder, you’re the killer, and you’re trying to get away with your crime, which means dodging frustratingly astute Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple types.
More specifically, in Overboard! you play as socialite and starlet Veronica Villensey. The year is 1935 and Veronica and her disgraced husband are sailing to America for a fresh start. To ensure an optimal new beginning for herself, Veronica sends hubby Malcolm overboard on their final night at sea. Waking the next morning, she has eight in-game hours to squash suspicion from passengers and crew before the SS Hook docks in New York City.
How you attempt to get away scot-free, is entirely up to you. Overboard! is at its core a puzzle game, and strategies available to the player include charm, blackmail, bargaining, seduction, gaslighting, framing, or even adding to your murder tally in the case of inconvenient witnesses. If you want to spend the entire eight hours sitting smug and happily single in your cabin, you can do that too – although, spoiler, simply hiding won’t help your case. Sooner or later you’ll be hauled in to face accusations.
It’s debatable how replayable Overboard! is once you achieve the optimal outcome: escaping a prison sentence and claiming the insurance pay-out on Malcolm’s life. That said, getting away with the perfect crime is far from easy. The SS Hook is a small vessel, and keeping your story straight when everyone is snooping around can be extremely challenging. Then again, every character has a secret, and, if uncovered, those secrets can be exploited to your benefit.
Players must be selective with their actions during Overboard!’s eight-hour countdown. Every activity and movement around the ship is factored into the time frame. You simply can’t do everything in a single playthrough, which averages around 20 to 30 minutes in reality. That said, Overboard! encourages replayability. If you’re caught, a new game loads with a list of previous discoveries to optionally explore (e.g. how do I get the captain’s pass card?), and the delightfully mercenary Veronica gives fourth wall-breaking commentary as if she’s stuck in a Depression Era Groundhog Day.
On that note, Overboard! is text driven like other inkle games, but feels considerably more compact and digestible. No intimidating walls of text or tedious conversations here. The writing is sharp, and should please fans of Knives Out with its dark, irreverent sense of humour, and colourful cast. Sweetening Overboard!’s appeal further, the dialogue is paired with an art style reminiscent of travel posters from the game’s period setting.
Overboard! gives players a surprising amount of choice, and you’ll find the game becomes more entertaining the more you vary your villainous plot each time. Mixing things up like one of Lady H’s many, many cocktails, the NPCs all follow their own schedule, moving around in real time. For example, should you linger in your cabin and arrive late for breakfast, the restaurant will be largely empty, resulting in fewer prying eyes. For the record, Overboard! comes with 26 unlockable Steam achievements, including one for seven murders committed in a single playthrough.
Given its simplicity, and the fact it was developed in just a few months, it’s surprising just how good Overboard! is. A couple of disjointed transitions aside, the game is exhilarating, frequently funny, and addictive thanks to its all-round style (text and visual), and insistence that players embrace deliciously, strategic wickedness.
Overboard! is out now for PC, Nintendo Switch, and iOS 13 and up. On PC, it enjoys full controller support in addition to mouse and keyboard.
Last Updated: June 15, 2021