The roguelike genre has many varying levels of difficulty. When it comes to platforms like the Nintendo Switch, there are a few choices for the brave that are willing to venture down that path. Games like Dead Cells have found a new audience, not only on the Switch as a platform but with their game design for many reasons. There is a select group of people who love to endure the punishment of a challenging platformer with roguelike elements, or one that simply tests your patience or skill for that matter. Overwhelm is no different.
Difficult roads ahead
The first thing that you will notice about Overwhelm is its unrelenting difficulty. This was one thing that I found myself struggling with through my entire playthrough. Many games will pressure you to make certain leaps or jumps, with the level design being the challenge. Others will have patterned boss fights that will test your memory and observation skills in determining what the next maneuver for a boss might be. Overwhelm doesn’t necessarily adhere to any of these rule sets.
Much of the difficulty in Overwhelm is through random enemy drops and attacks. For example, in one of the boss fights you are taking down this giant worm that is slithering through a cave. There are platforms to jump on and run around as it barrels through the small openings in the cavern. Instead of it moving faster or growing stronger through its run of attacks, it instead flashes with the screen and disappears in many portions of the fight. Then enemies will randomly drop out of the sky and kill you with completely random attacks. This design is carried out similarly in other boss fights and reflected in the rest of your time spent climbing through the game’s chambers.
The game is designed on a one-hit kill system, leaving you to die and start over with the slightest touch of an enemy’s hand. You can change the difficulty setting within the menu for the game. This allows you to have an infinite number of lives as well as shots. In the standard difficulty, you are limited to 99 shots (with ammo resupplies prior to boss fights) and three lives per run.
Boss battle blues
The story of the game is probably the thing that got me most hooked with Overwhelm. You are spelunking into the depths of this hive, a seemingly endless pit of danger. Each time a boss is defeated, the hive evolves. That means the enemies you encounter now have new attacks to throw at you. Acid attacks, climbing walls, and jumping are all things the hive will earn after a major enemy is defeated. During this entire time, I kept wondering what the hive was and what the endgame would look like.
The challenge with the design of the game is that, when you die, your journey starts all over again. That is, if you don’t change the difficulty to the assisted mode that I did after numerous deaths. They were abundant, leaving me to set the game down many times and finally give in to the lesser difficulty. Looking back on the experience, I think I would have much preferred the assisted mode as the default difficulty rather than it being the second choice. This does cut down your overall playtime, having less caution knowing you have an endless supply of lives and ammo.
The struggles ahead
Overwhelm isn’t a very lengthy game. The length comes in the challenges ahead. Playing with the standard mode prompts you with three lives and only 99 shots from your weapon. There are no power-ups through your run through of the game, and the difficulty ramps up quickly regardless of which corridor you enter and complete.
If you’re up for the challenge that lies ahead, and the copious amounts of punishment with the game’s difficulty, there’s no doubt you’ve arrived at the right doorstep. If you’re not ready for those challenges, walk away now because this might not be the experience for you. There’s a good chance of frustration, bouts of rage, and simply the feeling of being overwhelmed. Most definitely — proceed with caution.
A review code was provided by the publisher.