Overclocked (PC) review
"Overclocked follows the story of David McNamara, former army psychiatrist, as he wanders the rain-slicked streets of New York, hunting for clues to uncover the mystery surrounding his five new patients."
Overclocked follows the story of David McNamara, former army psychiatrist, as he wanders the rain-slicked streets of New York, hunting for clues to uncover the mystery surrounding his five new patients. It’s a simple story and bares enough realism to make the game actually feel like a genuine thriller. However, there are some moments within that definitely ruin the immersion and turn interesting and unique elements into dull and lifeless tasks which do nothing more than detract from the potential this title could have held.
Credit must be given to House of Tales for attempting to push the boundaries of adventure games. Overclocked, instead of focusing on monotonous pixel-clicking and random item combinations, brings character dialogue and logical solutions to the forefront. This may make for a refreshing change for veterans of the genre, but it still manages to bring such new features forward in such an awkward manner that you may find yourself wishing for a return to unoriginality. All characters are fully voiced, but what could you expect when the main reoccurring cast is limited to around eight people? Furthermore, facial expressions and lip-syncing often appears to be inappropriate and ill-timed, with huge pauses between replies during dialogue. If Freelancer and Dreamfall were able to do this effectively years ago, then why does Overclocked find itself so incapable of making a believable conversation occur between characters, especially in a game which is supposed to emphasise such drama between individuals?
In addition to this, the ease of the puzzles allows for even the most amateurish of adventurers to complete the game in a matter of hours. It may occasionally momentarily confuse you in the sillier of situations available (such as shooting bricks out of a wall to get through), but often even in such circumstances the solution is blaringly obvious; as it is almost always the only available item in your inventory. Such easiness will be charming to a newcomer to the genre, yet experienced players will find themselves dashing through such sections to discover more revelations in the story; revelations that come all too slowly.
It’s worth pointing out that Overclocked also contains more flashbacks than Lost. This presents an opportunity for the player to experience the past first-hand, and the developers seize upon this opening for yet more innovation with enthusiasm. This is where the game’s other playable characters are hastily implemented, by way of living out the memories of McNamara’s patients in order to advance the story. Unfortunately none out of the five play differently to one another, so the constant dullness is never broken. Most of these people look and sound the same, as well as experience the same series of events. It is disappointing that half of the game is spent trying to induce these visions.
Overclocked may be branded with mediocre gameplay, especially when compared to its fellow adventure games, but at least it attempts to shine through atmosphere and story. The city is constantly drowned in a mysterious monsoon, similar to the horrible weather in the likes of Max Payne. Whilst such a cliché aspect is surely to be criticised or simply go unnoticed by the majority of players, it certainly adds an aura of depression to the game, if not just giving the developers a chance to use greyscale. The same could be said of the gentle, ambient soundtrack also; there is nothing really wrong with the music, just that it will only be noticed by those listening out for it. Rarely, you’ll hear a scream inside the mental hospital, but these are somehow silenced after you spend more than five minutes in the facility, making the setting not really that disturbing at all. These effects are applied throughout the game, only becoming little more than an annoyance in the most intense events.
However, there are some pretty poetic points within the story; a minor one being the smashing of a wardrobe mirror following an incident in the protagonist’s personal life. The destruction of such an unimportant prop is hardly plot-changing, but still effectively symbolises the McNamara’s own downward spiral into insanity which ends up being one of the main reasons why players stay hooked to the game. Often interactions with the environment are more powerful than between characters, although I cannot help but think that this was rather unintentional on part of the developers. Still, they create significant, memorable points in the playing experience – one which makes the fun out of the process of uncovering the plot, rather than the climax and solution.
Unless you are really passionate about other adventure games from House of Tales or are absolutely desperate for something to play, avoid Overclocked. While Overclocked should be commended for daring to tread new grounds, it deals with such opportunities so haphazardly that it’s hard to recommend this title to even the most patient or ignorant of players.
Freelance review by Freelance Writer (May 28, 2008)
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