Overcome

Factfile
Developed by:Overcome Studios
Published by:Overcome Studios
Released:2019
Format played:PC – Steam

What Is It?

Overcome is the brainchild of one-man firm Overcome Studios, created by India-based developer Kabir Lal. A 2D action platformer, Overcome is designed as a metaphor for its creators own battle with cancer.

As someone who has sought out other mediums to explore my own life experiences (buy my books here, folks!), I understand the power of metaphor in learning to cope with and process traumatic events and so I find the concept behind this compelling.

The game itself is a tricky trickster of a platfom puzzler. You control a little heart, which you have to navigate through the level whilst all the while fending off attacks from your ‘inner demons.’ These take the form of other hearts of various shade and size. Some spit balls of death at you, some try to ram you off the path like a rampaging bull whilst others still try to stomp you into the mud.

Ostensibly you are defenceless, in the sense that you don’t have any form of projectile weapon or attack. Indeed in the first part of the game you have no means of fighting back at all, able only to jump over enemies to avoid them. Soon though you are presented with the ability to deflect attacks back from whence they came, allowing you to destroy enemies or send charging behemoths back across the screen to knock out anyone in their path. This power upgrades throughout the game, first allowing you to deflect left to right, then allowing you to deflect attacks from above and later granting you the ability to glide for short distances.

These powers are essential to navigating your way through levels. It is tempting to start with to try and simply sprint through as quickly as possible but that only ends in one way; death. Instead you must take your time, watch for enemy patterns, plan your next move. After which you are rewarded with, well, death actually.

Yes, you are going to die. A lot. So much in fact that Steam even has an achievement for it (I’ve managed to clock up 400 deaths so far). For this is a puzzler as much as it is a platformer. A single section of a level might take you twenty or more attempts but eventually you work out the timings, hit your spots at just the right moment, and die. Then die again. But finally, you make it to that oh so precious save point.

Make no mistake, this is fiendishly difficult. If my kids are in earshot whilst I’m playing this then they’re likely going to learn a whole new vocabulary to try out in the school playground. Enemies are often stacked one after the other, usually combining different types of attacks. In addition, the level will be set across a number of platforms and so you find yourself trying to concentrate on landing your jump whilst deflecting away a blob of goo to take out the enemy and at the same time getting the timing right to get to the next platform at just the right moment to fend off the next attack. Oh and be careful because whilst deflecting, you are knocked back a pace or two and so can often find yourself landing that jump, bracing to deflect, only to find that the kickback pushes you off the ledge and down to your doom. Or you find yourself banging your head (so to speak) on the ledge above, which bumps you off course and into the fiery pits.

Repetition is the key. It is tempting to recall our old friend Rick Dangerous, the poster child for memory test gaming. But unlike that scoundrel Rick, however insanely difficult Overcome gets, and however many keyboards you break and languages you defile, it never feels unfair. It is hard, to be sure. But where games like Rick Dangerous delight in killing you with traps that you couldn’t hope to see, Overcome places its obstacles out in plain sight and simply challenges you to, well, Overcome them. If you die, it is generally your fault, death not the result of sloppy or unfair design.

When it comes together, it is satisfying to pull off however your enjoyment will be tempered by your level of frustration. I simply had to walk away at some sections of the game and come back to it another time lest I put my fist through the monitor. The passive nature of it meanwhile is a nice change of pace but those looking for a more hands-on action experience will come away disappointed.

Mechanically it generally works fine. I had a couple of moments where my avatar didn’t seem to respond but I wasn’t sure if it was down to a bug or if it was a deliberate development ploy. With a bare bones hub and little in the way of other on-screen markers, it was difficult to tell. Jumping can occasionally be frustrating too, your heart all too often seeming to slip off the edge of the last platform in a tricky sequence, sending you back to the start. Checkpoints are a blessing but their placement is less than generous and in tandem with the frequent deaths means that you will be replaying the same sections of levels dozens of times.

Graphically it is nice, utilising a neat pixel art style. Sound is terrific too, with a suitably moody piece accompanying your adventure. But with only four levels, no matter how hard they are, this isn’t likely to last you that long and value for money is certainly a consideration.

Bottom Line

An interesting concept, Overcome shows flashes of quality in its design but oftentimes proves more frustrating than enjoyable.

6/10

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