Switch version tested
Review code provided
Overwhelm is a retro-themed action horror game from the talented mind of Ruari O’Sullivan. Originally available on the Steam platform it now finds a fitting home on the Nintendo Switch. Let’s find out what it’s all about.
The first thing that hits is the distinctive and striking colour scheme, opting for a limited pallet for maximum effect. It adds an eerieness to the atmosphere that is unsettling and keeps you on edge during play. The bright, simple pixel-based characters really stand out because of this. I guess really to understand more about the concept and aptly named title we must consider the true meaning the word Overwhelm:
- If you are overwhelmed by a feeling or event, it affects you very strongly, and you do not know how to deal with it.
- He was overwhelmed by a longing for times past. [be VERB-ed]
- The need to talk to someone, anyone, overwhelmed her. [VERB noun]
- Synonyms: overcome, overpower, devastate [informal], stagger.
Our protagonist arrives on horseback and must explore a deep cave system whilst fighting against the evil that lies in wait, simply known as the hive. The first type of enemy that you encounter reminded me visually of The Runner Xenomorph, introduced in Alien 3, which was a variation on the classic creature design after crossing with a dog. It brought back that stark sense of fear. There are a handful of different enemy types to add a little variation in play. Ruari creates games about having a bad time and this is no different, one hit kills you, you have three lives and then its game over. Brutal about sums it up.
You control movement with the left analogue and aim with the right, akin to a standard twin-stick shooter. Action buttons are mapped to the triggers offering, jump, double jump by way of an uppercut (which comes in handy against flying enemies) and fire. It took a while to get the hang of the controls and ammo is limited but can be replenished at checkpoints. Above all, there is the mini-map navigation display that can be overlayed on the field of play to pinpoint exactly where you are in relation to the key locals but don’t dilly around as they can still wipe you out within the blink of an eye.
The aim of the game is to collect five mysterious but important red crystals. This is achieved by locating and smashing their containers, a simple enough ask… until you have to actually do it. The containers tend to be located at the extremities of the map and in their own unique environment, which often provides its own set of challenges. Once smashed each release a beast that is going to hunt you down and kill you:
- Twin Lizard
- Tunnel Worm
- Bush Spider
From the names given, it doesn’t take a genius to accurately work out what you’ll be faced with. Each boss has its own bizarre ability giving a new layer of terror but thankfully each comes with an easy to identify attack pattern… although in no way does this mean it’ll be a walk in the park. Overwhelm is unforgiving and nearly cost this reviewer his Switch on more than one occasion as it almost flew across the room. Practice, patience and timing become vital in order to survive. Overwhelm adds an interesting spin on things by upgrading the hive, in keeping with the ability they held, each time you conquer one of the bosses. It seriously increases the difficulty faced so try the bosses in different orders to work out the easiest path. After all five are defeated its time to return the crystals, destroy what remains before a final face-off.
The soundtrack is in keeping with the tone of the game and perfectly builds tension adding to the anxiety of each playthrough. A co-op mode has been included this time around and is exclusive to the Switch port. You can now revive the fallen but sharing the burden with a friend doesn’t make this any less of a challenge.
Overwhelm is a devastating and unsettling trip into a horror-filled world. It takes some time to really get your investment due to the difficulty but stick with it as it’s one hell of a ride. You will die a lot and need to re-start over and over again. If things become too much you can change the settings giving unlimited ammo and lives. Upon completing the main quest you unlock a couple of extras, including new game plus, which gives you a reason to revisit… if you dare.
TBG Score: 7/10
Platform: Steam, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 04/04/2019
No. of Players: 1-2
Category: Shooter, Action, Platformer
Developer: Ruari O’Sullivan
Download link: eShop