Updated: Jan 8, 2019
Title: Overdriven Reloaded: Special Edition
Genre: Vertical Shoot-em-up
Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer (local)
Developer: TOMA Game Studio
Publisher: Mailys Brouste
Platform(s): PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch (reviewed),
Release: January 10, 2019 (Switch)
The term “hardcore” gamer has become a word with many facets. What truly makes a gamer “hardcore?” We may never have a true definition of what a “hardcore” gamer is, but this much I can say – shoot 'em ups are definitely a hardcore genre. We have seen quite the evolution of the shmup genre, from its humble beginnings with Space Invaders, to the 16-bit renaissance with games like R-Type 3 and Thunder Force 4, to the emergence of the “bullet hell” subsection featuring Chaos Field and Shikhondo. Shmup games have come a long way, but they have all retained their tough-as-nails, just-one-more-round style of gameplay.
The only concern I have with the shmup genre is that it has become too hardcore. It's difficult to find a space shooter that doesn't push your hand-eye coordination to its limits. To that point, we have Overdriven Reloaded: Special Edition for the Nintendo Switch, a vertical space shoot-em-up that promises fun, frantic action for up to four players. But does it deliver?
Overdriven Reloaded originally came out for Steam in 2016, and like many other Steam games, made the transition to the Nintendo eShop. The game is your standard shoot-em-up, with a few welcome changes.
If you're looking for a deep, engaging story in Overdriven Reloaded, look elsewhere. It's your run-of-the-mill “good guys shooting the bad guys” story, but in all honesty, I don't think I've ever played a shmup with an enthralling storyline. You do get some narrative from a female squad leader, but it really doesn't do a whole lot to push the narrative. From what I understand, there's a race of aliens that pilot ships, but are also bugs, and they are trying to steal your planet's energy source. No big deal, though, because this is a classic arcade game through-and-through, and the story takes a back seat to the gameplay.
You choose between two ships, and jump right into the enemy-blasting, laser-dodging action. Each level auto-scrolls upward, and the action fills the entire screen. That's right folks – it's a full-screen game, not one of those vertical shooters where you need to fiddle with the settings and turn your TV sideways in order to get the real experience. This is a welcome change of pace from a lot of vertical shooters, because it gives you a much larger playing field and more breathing room to avoid enemy fire. As you proceed through each level, you come across a lot of the genre staples: enemy ships, obstacles, and gigantic bosses.
You have two methods of attack: your standard blaster, and a super-powered laser that obliterates anything in its path. But you need to be careful when shooting that way, as firing the laser causes your ship's power core to be “overdriven” (get it?), and your health bar drops to the very bottom. Take a hit or two while firing this way, and you're toast. That's why it's extremely important to know when to use that laser. As you destroy enemies, you will obtain power-ups, which increase the fire rate, range, and size of your standard blaster. Pick up enough power-ups, and soon you'll be covering two-thirds of the screen with your weaponry. It's a thing of beauty.
Overdriven Reloaded incorporates a very fascinating gameplay element: you can change your ship's color, and with it, your bullet color changes too. There are obstacles in the game that look like gems, and can only be destroyed if you shoot them with the correct-colored weapon, causing all three gems to be the same color and thus, disappear. Think of it as Ikaruga meets Dr. Mario. It's a very novel concept and adds some cranial challenge to the action.
The Tip & The Top
The graphics aren't going to blow anyone away, but they do look nice. Enemy bullets are a colorful, neon frenzy, and since they're easy to see, they're also easy to avoid. The backgrounds are not very detailed, but you may not notice. For a game like this, your attention is pulled to so many different spots at once that having a detailed background not only distracts you, but also has the chance of blending in with enemy bullets, resulting in cheap deaths. All the detail is given to your ship, the enemies, and the bullets. Overdriven Reloaded isn't going to win any awards in the graphics department, but it's not the worst I've seen.
Overdriven Reloaded's soundtrack is a fun rock score that really goes well with the on-screen action. The tempo really picks up during boss battles, and as the boss' life bar goes down, the music speed picks up. This really got my heart pumping and made those last few chaotic seconds of a boss battle that much more exciting.
Another awesome thing about Overdriven Reloaded is a small, but appreciated aspect. If you are maneuvering around obstacles or tight corridors, and an enemy off to the side tries to shoot you, their bullets are ACTUALLY STOPPED BY THE WALLS! I know, what a novel concept! I've seen way too many shmups where enemy fire magically passes through solid objects and I simply cannot avoid it. I loved that attention to detail that quite frankly should be prevalent in every game of this genre.
Overdriven Reloaded also features no slowdown! This is quite the feat, as there is a LOT of action on the screen at once. In a game that rewards precision and speed, having the action move to a snail's pace because of too many objects on the screen takes away the immersion every time. But not in this game! Even when you're playing multiplayer (up to 4 people can play at once), the game keeps going strong. I also noticed that the hitboxes are perfectly placed. I was able to dodge bullets by the skin of my teeth, and seeing that I didn't take any unfair damage is really welcome.
Aside from the story mode, you have Arcade Mode with different difficulties, Manic (the aforementioned bullet hell), Boss Rush, Line Mode (don't let a single enemy ship get past you), specific Challenges, and Color Mode (get past the gems by matching their colors), and local leaderboards. There's a lot to do in Overdriven Reloaded, so while you can blast through the story in about an hour or two, there's a lot of options that add to the replay factor.
The Flip and the Flop
Overdriven Reloaded is not without its flaws. Again, the graphics are nice, but can be a little bland at times. The stages are very repetitive, and don't really make me feel like I am battling in a space station or frosty tundra. There is also a severe lack of gameplay description. I tried looking for a digital manual or something to help me along, but the game did not include instructions. I was not able to decipher what power-ups did what, so I just grabbed everything I could, figuring it couldn't hurt. I would have liked to know what power-up I was going for, just to ave that knowledge.
There were a few elements of the game that were welcome, but went criminally underutilized. I absolutely loved the idea of changing your ship's color to shoot gems in order to make them disappear, but it only showed up in the game a couple times. I would have loved to see the boss battles incorporate this element as well, but alas, they did not. There was also a part in the game where you have to protect an ally ship. The segment literally took about ten seconds to complete, and it would have been nice to see more of that concept as a change of pace.
My only other issue with the game was the script. Some of it did not make any sense. Your female squad leader has a voice, but it is mundane and robotic. The dialogue also had several grammatical errors. For example, when I grabbed a secret cow from behind a wall I just blasted, I got a notification saying “You find a space cow.” One of the levels is called “The Planet of Meat,” and when I rescued the above-mentioned ally, her response was “You're so strong...we have to talk together.” It's not as memorable as “All your base are belong to us,” but it's still a head-scratcher.
Finally, there are no online leaderboards; just local. It would have really added to the replayability to include online leaderboards to increase the competitive aspect of the game.
Final Grade: B
I specifically avoided the price tag for Overdriven Reloaded: Special Edition until after I completed the game. Once I finished, I felt that the game shouldn't be priced above $9.99, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the asking price is only $7.99. At that price, Overdriven Reloaded is absolutely worth it. It's a fun, colorful entry-level shmup that is a blast to play with others. The game isn't too hard, but it gets really tough when you select the Nightmare difficulty. It's fun in short bursts, and the post-game content keeps it from getting stale. For those of you who grew up on shmups but feel a lot of the newer games are too difficult and complicated, Overdriven Reloaded: Special Edition is a great title to add to your collection.
Review code provided by Mailys Brouste