It’s always a good week when Inkle decides to release a new game, but when they do so completely out of nowhere it’s just that much more exciting. That’s how they decided to drop their latest title Overboard! on iOS, Switch, and PC gamers this week, and just as you’d expect from Inkle this is one hell of a ride. Overboard! is kind of a “reverse” murder mystery. You play as a woman who, during a cruise across the ocean, decides to dump her hubby overboard to a watery grave down below. You wake up in the morning to the reality of what you’ve done, as well as the realization that you have no plan whatsoever. You’re something of a socialite and people are going to notice your husband is missing. What are you going to do?
Gameplay consists of visiting the various areas of the ship searching for clues and talking to other passengers to figure out who knows what, who can be useful to your cause, and who might have seen a little too much and need to be “dealt” with. Perhaps with another heave-ho over the railing? All the while you need to accomplish the goal of pinning the murder on someone else or otherwise not being held responsible while also not raising suspicions through your actions or discussions, and you only have 8 in-game hours to do so, as that’s when your ship will arrive at its destination.
Overboard! presents such a cool twist on the murder mystery formula as you’re doing many of the things you’d normally do in terms of finding clues or utilizing items and situations, but where you’d normally be using all of that to determine who is the most likely killer, here you’re more or less trying to determine who is the most likely sucker and can have the murder you committed pinned on them. This is all done with the incredible level of polish that Inkle is known for in terms of the actual game engine itself, as well as the art and especially the music. The game takes place in the 1930s and it is absolutely gushing with charm, even if that charm does skew a little dark.
Not to be forgotten is the actual dialogue in Overboard! which is also high quality and stuffed with dozens if not hundreds (thousands?) of branching paths and possibilities. This doesn’t feel like just an interactive novel though as there are elements to item collection and usage that almost have a puzzle-like quality that feels ripped straight out of a classic adventure game. All of these things combine to create a story that can be played over and over again without ever having the same experience twice, and every time you come out on the other end with some truly memorable moments whether you get away with the murder or not. Is interactive fiction/point-and-click adventure/roguelike a genre mashup yet? Because if it isn’t I think Overboard! has just created it.