Described as an “action-puzzle adventure game”, Overturn’s puzzle elements play a secondary role; the game weighs heavily on fast, first-person action, combining projectile weapons and frantic melee combat with fists, shields, and blades. Overturn is available now on Steam for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift; it is also in development for PSVR.
Waking up in a laboratory complex, you’re immediately introduced to the game’s narrative design, which is text-based, describing your character’s thoughts in the centre of your vision. It’s a welcome choice in this case, as even the best voice talent would struggle to deliver this questionable script in a convincing manner. Once you begin exploring the laboratory, you’ll find the text ‘checkpoints’ already laid out across the level—similar in appearance to Valve’s ‘developer commentary’ text bubbles—hardly conducive to maintaining immersion.
Floating text aside, Overturn delivers a sharp presentation, with intuitive menu systems, useful tips placed logically in the game world, and slick environments, lighting, and effects. Production values aren’t sky-high, but there are atmospheric moments, particularly when it goes dark and you’re given a flashlight (I just wish it could be held it in both orientations), and levels have been designed intelligently to play to the strengths of VR. The anime-style character design might not be to all tastes, but it is less exaggerated than the work-in-progress footage (and the studio’s previous title that appears to be based in the same universe, Smashing The Battle VR) and works well with the overall aesthetic.
VR FPS locomotion enthusiasts will be pleased to hear the game offers both freeform ‘traditional’ movement input for those who want to glide around smoothly, and teleporting with snap turning for those susceptible to VR sickness. The teleport option is well-implemented, limiting the jump distance so you can’t ‘cheat’ the system too much, and the fuzzy visual blur on each transition is surprisingly effective. Snap turning is also welcome, but the rotation might benefit from being even faster, if not instant.
Overturn’s straightforward level progression is well-judged in terms of pacing, introducing the player to melee combat with fists on a few basic enemy types, before offering grenades and laser weapons. The blocking system works well enough, bringing your hands together to defend as you would in boxing, but the actual punching—and eventually blade-swinging—can quickly regress into wild hand-flailing, particularly on ‘Easy’. ‘Normal’ difficulty is challenging enough to warrant a more deliberate approach at times, but there is a distinct lack of nuance to the close-quarters combat, with little in the way of impact animation. Ranged weapons fare much better, and the grenade-throwing physics are intuitive.
Once you meet Magi, a mysterious girl with incredible powers, the game steps up several notches, and combat becomes more frantic and varied. Magi follows you around, offering a range of power-ups including ‘Time Slow’; as always, slow motion combat is endlessly enjoyable in VR. She can also craft health packs, which you consume by holding them up to your face, and you need to maintain her energy and health too. Battle arenas begin to introduce cover, which, as with all VR FPS games, becomes useful in a more organic way than traditional cover mechanics played on a flat display, as players will naturally gravitate to walls to physically hide/duck behind.
Enemy types and boss battles are also varied, and the game introduces new weapons and mechanics at an enjoyable pace. Since its recent launch on Steam, Overturn has grappled with enemy balancing, with the ‘Normal’ mode being rather too difficult at times. After a few rounds of updates, the game is in a better place, while still offering a serious challenge. There isn’t a stand-out feature, and its presentation is dripping with clichés, but Overturn is weirdly compelling enough to retain my attention.