One of the most popular genres of fiction is the murder mystery. Movies, books, and, yes, even video games all love to enter the world of capturing a killer, but what if the roles were reversed? That is what Overboard! does for the player. It takes them and puts them in that classic murder situation, but instead of a scenario where you need to capture the killer you’re instead trying to get away with it.
The game opens with a simple enough premise. You have just thrown your husband overboard and now you need to make it through the rest of the day without being caught. From this point on it’s up to the player how they want to approach the situation. They can choose to play dumb and act like they have no idea where their husband is, or they can tell everyone they never came back to the room the night before. By 5 p.m. in game time a meeting will be called where everything will be brought to life. Depending on how you performed you may get away with it, but if you play your cards wrong, you could be on the way to jail.
How the player gets through the day is through dialogue choices. They’re given a list of actions, words to say, and responses. They can travel the ship, talk to other passengers, and do whatever they can to make sure that they aren’t the one leaving in handcuffs. Where Overboard! shines brightest is the writing. It’s smart, intriguing, and best of all really funny. Each character has a personality that is believable but also absurd, and fans of Agatha Christie stories will find references or nods throughout their playthrough of the game. In fact if the player is able to successfully sneak into one room in particular they’ll be able to find some of Christie’s novels on the bookshelf.
While the story itself might sound fairly shallow, there’s a ton of depth in Overboard! beyond the premise. There are dozens of scenarios the player can go through to reach the different endings. Some of them comedic, others more in line with what the game intends, and a few that are just absurd. Want to go on a murderous rampage so nobody can rat you out? While not recommended, it’s certainly an option! Frame other passengers by any means necessary. Blackmail. Murder. Deceit. Lying. Anything the player can do to make sure they’re walking away free, but there is a catch.
It turns out that getting away with murder is actually one of the more simple aspects of the game. So the game adds extra goals to keep the player on their toes. For example, if you manage to convince everyone that your husband jumped off the boat themselves then you can walk away free, but the main character didn’t manage to collect on the life insurance. So much for living the lavish single life. Every playthrough, the game will give the player a checklist of scenarios they may want to try: Break into someone’s room, trick a passenger into helping you, find out another character’s deep dark secret. The game will not tell you what to do directly, but it will give you hints as to what you can do next. This increases replay value and creates more fun for trying out different scenarios.
Overboard! can also be quite challenging! The player will think they’re on the path they want, only to have another character do something they never saw coming and suddenly they’re on the defensive. This is where the challenge and thrill of being a murderer trying to escape comes from. Luckily there aren’t any Hercule Poirot’s on board so tricking these fellow passengers isn’t impossible, but it’s not as easy as just saying the right thing. Everyone has their own motivations as well and that’s why gathering as much information as possible is essential to success.
This game is great. Developer Inkle really out did themselves with this one and what’s most impressive is that it was apparently made in about five months time. According to Jon Ingold developer it was born January 6, 2021 and was just a game everyone wanted to make for fun. It turned into what is honestly an early game of the year contender. Any fan of visual novels, murder mysteries, detective shows, or just enjoyers of goofy humor should play this game. It is well worth their time.
A review code for the Nintendo Switch version of the game was supplied to UPROXX and played for this review.