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Developer Psygnosis Options
Distributer Psygnosis 1-5 Players
Game Type Strategy/Adventure Mem. Card
Review Date November 1997 Multi-Tap
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Setting the Scene
Ahoy there, shipmates. Those cut-throats from Psygnosis have once again wandered from the straight and narrow in desperate bid to prove to the world that not only do they produce the highest quality racing titles, but they can match the best in other genres. Already this year we have witnessed a quality shoot-em-up in the form of Tenka, an adventure that included some of the strangest puzzles I've ever come across in City of the Lost Children, the futuristic sports sim Riot, a top down racer called Speedster and a space adventure titled Sentient. Their most recent release, the stunning G-Police, covered almost every remaining genre (bar Platform) with it's helicopter sim / shoot-em-up / mission based / strategy / adventure format. How about that for variation?

So what on earth will they come up with next? Well basically it's a game of pirates and furthermore it crosses several genres. It's a strategic sea fairing adventure. It is definitely a shoot-em-up. It's a puzzle game. It is also a maze game. You can float. You can fly. You can burn. You can sink. It's fun. It's challenging. It's probably the most original games I have played. You can play it on your own. You can play it with a mate. You can even invite the five-a-side football team around for a game if you own a multi-tap. Quite simply it's Overboard and it's so refreshing.

The short intro is a cute cartoon sequence that crams in every conceivable association to those rouges from the high seas. Galleons, Jolly Roger flags, parrots, pirates, treasure maps and compasses all play their part to set the scene. There is a nice little distraction on the loading screen where a worried looking parrot is perched on a bomb that will explode when loading is complete.

The in-game graphics are very tidy indeed. Your galleon, complete with raised sails, floats on top of a large area of water that is divided into a maze-like course. When moving, little ripples break out on the surface of the sea while a sudden spurt sees your ship cut through the waves leaving a trail of foam from your stern. Every obstacle, item or piece of scenery is reflected onto the surface of the water, while shorelines feature waves rolling onto the beaches. Passing clouds add a sense of realism to the proceedings as do the shadows they cast over the surface below. Destruction of a guard tower leaves a realistic trail of rising smoke from the smouldering ashes. Another nice touch is when enemy ships have been scuttled their wrecks remain visible just below the waters surface for the remainder of the level. These act as an excellent beacons should you accidently backtrack over revealed territory.

Weapons are well animated. Groups of cannon balls can be fired from your aft, stern and bow while the resulting explosion from a launched rocket creates a glowing ball of fire as they explode. Should your ship catch fire the sails will be engulfed in glowing flames and if this is not doused quickly your crew will haul themselves overboard into the ocean crying aloud for help.

Sounds and Effects
Anyone out there remember the soundtrack to Waterworld? Neither do I, so it's just as well that the music which accompanies this game bares more than a passing resemblance to the old cartoon adventures of that scallywag pirate, Captain Pugwash. It's a foot-tapping jig provided by the ancient mariners favorite instrument, the accordion. The music ups tempo during the Caribbean world into a... well, Spanish-Caribbean style of music. You know the type, a mixture of big brass sounds, clicking castanets, shaking moracas and a few 'YEEE HAH's'. Very Gloria Estefan.

All of the in-game sound effects are accurately portrayed from the swooping bomb dropping parrots to the screams of drowning sailors. The game is full of cartoon type sounds with every whizz, bang and crash adding a little more enjoyment to the game.

The opening menu is divided into three treasure chests for single player, multi-player and game options. Within the options you can decide on the difficulty setting from land lubbers (easy) to seamen who truly have salt in their blood (hard). The games controls are extremely user friendly. The R1 button feels so natural as your accelerator while the other shoulder buttons allow you to change weapon and access the map screen. The face buttons can be configured into various weapon fire actions. So simple and easy to use. Passwords are offered to record your progress but the options also include a 'quick save' feature that allows you to quickly save your position onto a memory card (obviously).

The first thing you will notice is how much accuracy and precision you have over the ship. Within a couple of minutes you will be whizzing around the opening obstacle course without a care in the world. It almost feels like you are sailing a remote control boat.

Initially you command a galleon with three lives and the object of the game is to collect all of the floating bottles that are bobbing around on the sea. Each one collected will unveil a section of the terrain on your level map while the final bottle will unlock the end of a level. Your secondary objective is to haul aboard an allocated number of treasure chests. By using your map you can search for the many secret areas where some of the chests are hidden alongside a wealth of power ups. These are accessed by blasting through walls and sailing under waterfalls. Health may be replenished by picking up the chests marked with a first aid cross and collection of ammo crates will upgrade your firepower. On screen you have a compass for plotting your course, a weapon select menu and a running total of the treasure chests that have been collected on each level.

Now this all may sound quite simple and straightforward but there are a couple of things I should mention that may slow down your progress. First you are not travelling across the open sea but moving through a network of small harbors. Moving from harbor to harbor involves solving a puzzle to open the gates. This usually requires the shooting of a floating buoy, launching a rocket up towards an air balloon or destroying a selection of targets within the area you are confined. Sometimes you can transform into an air balloon or sail inside a bubble to float over a boundary wall. Basically you are in a maze and must work out how to get through to the end of a level. Unfortunately these harbors are riddled with enemies that appear in many forms. Ships will attack you from all angles with a range of firepower that will have you quivering on the deck. Cannonballs rain down on you, rockets and fireballs will burn down your mast and mines will be laid to scupper your progress. Ships are the least of your worries as kamikaze submarines and stubborn sharks will attack from below, heavily armed airships and bomb dropping parrots rule the air, guard towers will fire from the shores, even the odd cloud will attack you with lightening. Of course your ship will be armed with an appropriate weapon to tackle each enemy. Rockets, broadsides, depth charges, oil slicks and flamethrowers will help, but survival in Overboard will depend on how you use them.

The levels are divided into themed worlds which are Caribbean, Inca, Arctic, Industrial and Middle Eastern. At the end of each world a boss must be defeated before you may advance. These appear as giant sea creatures such as killer lobsters and fire breathing monsters and to make matters worse you are trapped within a confined space with them in a fight to the death.

Overboard includes an excellent multi-player option. There are ten specifically designed levels for two players, or five players if a multi-tap is used. Each player receives a different colored ship then they are all dropped into an enclosed arena that is packed with power ups. Then it's basically a fight for survival as quite simply the last boat sailing is the winner. This is a novel idea and although the boats are quite small I am sure this will prove to be the as much fun as the highly popular Micro Machines multi player modes. There is a separate option screen for this mode where various changes may be altered to suite your style of play such as time limits, available weapons and number of round required to win.

Value for Money
As a single player game Overboard is definitely worth checking out. Pleasing graphics, music that you can't get out of your head for days and a gameplay that is more fun than frustrating. Add to this the many hours that will simply fly past when enjoying the multi-player levels, then it looks as if Psygnosis have another hit on their hands.

GRAPHICS: Good As soon as you begin to feel that Overboard is becoming a little repetitive, up pops another world with fresh ideas, new scenery and a host of different enemies. The puzzles are not too challenging but have enough variation to hold your interest. As a multi-player game this stands up there with the best as it has that 'just one more go' feel to it. Simple, but effective. Nice one Psygnosis.

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