Overboard review

Overboard is a new murder mystery game from Inkle Studios, creators of Pendragon, 80 Days, and Heaven’s Vault. I say murder mystery, but the objective of the game is not to get arrested for your husband’s murder. The remarkable thing about Overboard is that Inkle started development in 2021, and shipped it only a few months later.

Overboard is a kind of murder mystery. The game starts off with you playing as Veronica, who throws her husband overboard and you spend the rest of the time trying to pin the murder on someone else. The game is part 2D puzzle game and also an interactive story, which uses Inkle’s fantastic Ink technology. There’s a whole load of narrative choices in the game, plus the writing is sharp as a knife and very funny, which is a tricky thing to pull off.

Overboard is very replayable too. The main objective is to get away with the murder of your dearly departed husband, but ideally, you want to run off with the loot too. This is where things become tricky as you have to convince the authorities that someone else done the murder.

There’s plenty of NPCs to chat to aboard the ship, which also means plenty of people to pin the murder on too. There’s Lady H, a fancy old widow who likes a drink, and there’s also Subedar-Major Singh who likes to take charge. There’s the captain, who is a massive flirt. All of the NPCs have their own schedule and walk about the ship, so it’s about coordinating who is here, perhaps slipping in some sleeping pills there, and manipulating the characters to help cover up the dirty deed. There are also clues Veronica has to cover up, given she lost an earring during the murder. Some of the NPCs even saw and heard her on the night of the incident, so Veronica has plenty of work on her hands to get away with it.

Overboard is meant to be played over and over. A single loop can take up to 4-6 hours, but as you play you’ll gather the knowledge to be more successful the next time you play. It’s all about understanding how and where the characters move about the ship, dropping in some misdirection here and there, finding a key to someone’s cabin so you can successfully frame them. A great little feature from Inkle is the fast forward button, so if you want you can skip the repeated dialogue if you’ve seen it before, allowing you to focus on the new dialogue you haven’t seen yet.

That brings us nicely to the writing, which is absolutely top-notch. The writing is witty, sharp, funny, and everything you’d expect from an Inkle game. The whole tone of the game hilarious, even though the subject matter is a wife murdering her husband. It’s a tricky balance to pull off but Overboard manages to pull off a very entertaining experience. It’s one of those games you could give a family member who’s not too familiar with video games, and they would be bound to have a great time with it too.

The narrative puzzles are good fun, mostly it’s reading and interacting with other characters and trying to persuade them to get to the result you want. For example, if someone was a witness, you will be trying to persuade them it wasn’t you. Or perhaps you want to sweet-talk another character to get them on your side. If you are persuasive then maybe a key eye witness might agree to say it wasn’t you, or you can convince them otherwise. Hopefully, you’ll get the outcome you want, or you can always choose to continue your murder spreeā€¦ it’s entirely up to you.

Jason Schreier recently featured Overboard on their Triple Click podcast and compared it to Hitman, but with a narrative twist. Definitely check out the episode of the podcast and also Jason’s Bloomberg write-up for Overboard. It’s a game that has captured the imagination of the players. One of the reasons and Jason mentions it in his article, that development started at the beginning of 2021 and it’s launched within 6 months. It’s an impressive thing to pull together the writing, artwork, design, and development in such a small space – plus it’s been released on PC, Switch, and mobile too. Bravo to the team.

Overboard is great fun, easy to get into, and instantly memorable. It is an Inkle game, so you will be reading a fair amount, however, it’s well worth it for the sheer quality of the writing backed up with the fantastic design and audio. It’s available on pretty much all platforms and works very well on Nintendo Switch and mobile devices.

Developer: Inkle
Publisher: Inkle
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, iOS
Release Date: 2nd June 2021