Ok, let’s begin!
So Overboard! (also known as Shipwreckers! in N. America) is a game developed and published by Psygnosis in 1997 for PlayStation and Microsoft Windows. This is one of those reviews where I have little additional information to go on when it comes to reviewing as the game itself didn’t make much of a splash when it first arrived partially due to the game itself, but the fact that it was competing with nine other Psygnosis titles on the Playstation in the same year. So what can I tell you, well the Lead Programmer for it was Robert C Dibley a man who’s worked on mainly, if not exclusively, racing titles since the millennium. The most recent of which is Fast & Furious: Crossroads for the PS4 in 2020 but also quite interestingly he is credited as a Jaguar Programmer for the ill-fated Highlander: The Last of the MacLeods which was released in 1995 just 2 years before Overboard!. Although let's be fair here the Jaguar console itself was pretty much cursed, to begin with. The Lead Artist Martin Calvert has also oddly worked mainly if not exclusively with racing titles since 2000 although he does have an older history with video games, and would you believe it he worked on another rather ill-fated Highlander title. Specifically, it was Highlander released in 1986 for the Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum. It’s almost like no one can make a decent highlander game or movie sequel.
Well, what can I tell you the game doesn’t have a plot really not in-game which at this point in the ’90s is sort of becoming the standard in video games. However, the manual does have a plot so what does it say:
The Legend of BlowFleet
“Gather round ‘n’ Hear th’ legend.
Cap’n Blowfleet ne’er lost a crewman to th’ scurvy, nor a tsunami, nor a creature from th’ depths. In truth, ‘is pirates were feared thro’ each o’ th’ seven seas. From th’ Windies to th’ Polars, thar weren’t a port nor anchorage which were safe from ‘is plund’rers ‘n’ it be folly to challenge ‘em.
Legend said they were emboldened by Egyptian enchantment, so only th’ bravest mariner would be foolish enough to risk a salty death.
But for one tar, Davy Jones’s locker held no dread.
That tar commandeered a vessel of ‘igh repute ‘n’ mustered a crew of strong-i’-th’-arm sea-dogs.
That tar took up the Blowfleet’s gauntlet.
That tar set sail to pillage ‘is strongholds, plunder ‘is loot, ‘n’ capture ‘is scalp. That tar be you.”
There we go, you got all that? Good! Because I ain’t typing that again. If you're wondering what a Tar is, it's English slang for seaman.
Overboard! Has an interesting mix of action and puzzle play. The goal of each level is to raise the jolly roger over each of the enemy ports and to steal all the plunder then go through a warp gate of some description to get to the next area. Simple enough right, but in reality, each level is a maze of traps and enemies and secret hiding spots which keeps you on your toes as enemies come from below, on the sea and in the skies. It creates quite tense and chaotic moments while also giving you little breathers as you navigate pattern-based traps or search for any hidden coves.
Overboard! Has power-ups, a lot of power-ups. When you start all you have is your chaser cannons and your broadsides, which by the way are really fun as you can do both broadsides at once. But then you find power-ups like flamethrowers, burning oil trails, rockets, depth charges and tesla weaponry. Oh but that's not all, no siree, you can level your weapons up giving them increased power and range if you find the golden power-ups. What's that? you think you're on a normal sailing ship. Well, watch Player as some power-ups transform your ship into a speeding paddle boat or better yet a flying zeppelin. What I’m trying to say is there's a lot of surprising variety in Overboard! to keep you entertained.
Overboard! Makes a great party game using the Playstation’s 4-way-tap accessory. You can have up to five players in a single deathmatch arena and just watch as five friends desperately try to be the last ship floating in a chaotic battle royal deathmatch with cannons, flamethrowers and mines. Friends will be set on fire, other friends will steal each other's sailors to snatch that extra bit of life and others will explode and sink in spectacular fashion.
Overboard!’s music although varied from world to world and fairly thematically on point isn’t really fit for the longer maze-like play that the game has you do. Many times when reaching the end section of a level I found myself getting slightly distracted and annoyed at the music as it loops around again for what feels like the 20th time. It is nice music but it does get repetitive and starts to grate on the old ears and sanity after a while.
The A.I. for the sea-bound enemies in the game is a little screwy especially when it comes to tight areas or sea walls in general. They have a habit of getting stuck on walls and corners then there's the enemy that spots you and just ramps headlong towards disregarding the fact that obstacles are in front of you or just ramming into your side as you obliterate them with cannon fire. This can make some sea battles less chaotic and fun and more like a bunch of mercy killings.
Nerd O Metre Rating
Low 3 out of 5
Overboard! is a game that I’d argue is just dumb, as in its dumb fun. In much the same way that not every movie needs to be a masterpiece of cinematography so too is true for video games. This is why I didn’t bring up the fact that the game has no in-game plot because from the moment Overboard! starts with its laughably terrible CGI beginning. You know this isn’t here to push the boundaries of what video games can be. All it’s trying to be is a fun piratically themed bit of entertainment. Which I’ll be honest I think it does rather well at, especially when it comes to the party game side of things, but does that make it a great game. Well, no, like with many fun dumb movies you’re never really going to rate them very high which is why I’m giving Overboard! its score. It’s a middle of the road game. Its single-player campaign is fun and varied but does get a bit stale around the 4th world, not helped by the looping music. It does have great potential as a party game but at the same time Overboard! wasn’t pushing boundaries or really leaning into its theme. For instance, let's compare it to Future Cop L.A.P.D. which came out the following year. In a way, both games have very similar gameplay mechanics but future cop provides a much more rounded experience in its single-player campaign with its in-game plot, audio clips, custom load-outs, dark humour jokes and cool CGI sequences when compared to Overboard!. That’s why Future Cop got its score of a High 3 out of 5 it was still dumb fun but it did a lot with its dumb fun and as a result, it raised itself beyond par. Do I think you should get Overboard!, well yeah probably, it’s not what I’d call a must-have but it’s an entertaining game and isn’t the most expensive one to get either. Just know that you're getting the gaming equivalent of a B movie and enjoy the chaos.