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Overdriven Evolution Review


‘Evolution’ definitely covers it. TOMAGameStudios released their first Overdriven game, Overdriven Reloaded: Special Edition, in 2018, and you can feel the five years of improvement in Overdriven Evolution. They’ve used every day of that time to fashion a shooter that’s bigger, more bombastic and overflowing with ideas. 

Screenshots don’t quite do it justice. There’s a plasticky, slightly Fisher Price-look to the ships and bosses of Overdriven Evolution, which might easily give the impression that this is a cheap or easy take on the vertical shooter. But wait until you see everything in motion. Overdriven Evolution subscribes to the belief that ‘more is more’ and the screen soon becomes a ridiculous light show. It’s the Las Vegas of shooters, and we can absolutely understand why there are epilepsy warnings at the start of the game. We had to shield our eyes on occasion. 

overdriven evolution review 1
This is definitely an Evolution of Overdriven

But there’s no doubting Overdriven Evolution’s biggest flaw: it’s generic. The ship designs are cast-offs from that Starlink game that no-one bought, and there’s none of the personality that you might expect from Konami, Cave or Psikyo’s greatest hits. That’s none more clear than when your wingwoman walks in between missions. She looks like a dead-eyed action figure of Cortana, and she scares the living daylights out of us. Shudder. 

But we’ve already forgotten those first impressions. That’s because the gameplay is so good – far beyond the expectations of an indie shmup. 

If I were to pinpoint its secret, it would be that it lets you cheat. As we’ve mentioned, there are a ridiculous number of bullets onscreen at any moment. There is no physical way for your ship, at its size, to weave through them without being hit. What Overdriven Evolution does is acknowledge this and recalibrate. While you might look like a large spaceship, you are in fact a tiny pixel within that spaceship. It’s only when that tiny pixel collides with anything that you take damage. This allows you to nip through tiny gaps unscathed, even though you blatantly nicked a wing or nose on a missile. 

It doesn’t stop there. You’re given a healthy lifebar, and damage will only chip slivers off of it. The enemy attacks come in clusters, too, so while they might look like an impossibly large number of bullets, they are eminently avoidable too – as long as you’re fast and anticipate them. What this combines to mean is that the screen can be pure anarchy, but you’re given so much leeway and maneuverability that, if you’re good, you can win without taking a scratch. 

So, it’s not cheating, not really – more a careful agreement between the attacks Overdriven Evolution sends at you and the capabilities of your ship. It’s perfectly balanced, as all things should be. 

overdriven evolution review 2
We feel Overdriven Evolution is perfectly balanced

Equally balanced are your attacks. Overdriven Evolution has a neat-o laser that can obliterate any ship in milliseconds, but it reduces your shields to 20% and leaves you open to, well, death. You’re using that laser carefully while also dipping into your conventional attacks, which get souped up by power ups. We’re so used to shooters that let you incrementally and slowly build up to something emphatic. Overdriven Evolution says sod that and makes you a killing machine after picking up just one. Die, and you can grab all the pick-ups you dropped, too. 

We’re not convinced about the inclusion of colour-matching mechanics, though. Tap a shoulder button, and you can cycle through colours for your basic attacks. This won’t mean anything for the basic enemies, but it’s important for gems in the environment. These gems often block passages, and it’s down to you to switch to the right colour to fragment them – or else you ram-raid them, and you won’t want to do that. 

We got the impression that the colour-matching was once a big part of Overdriven Evolution, until someone decided it was too fiddly and dialled it down. Because it feels like an afterthought, something you can ignore until the few moments when you die if you do ignore it. When you’re forced to use it, it’s cumbersome. A wall of three differently coloured gems means that you need one of those three gems to unlock it, which is odd. A red/green/yellow wall can be defeated with a red, green or yellow laser, and it’s both unintuitive and unchallenging. 

But the proof in the shoot ’em up pudding is the bosses, and Overdriven Evolution nails them. Again, they’re not thematically inspiring – while there’s the odd one-eyed alien and dual spaceships, there are still too many star destroyers. But they’re plenty varied. They have phases and stages out of the hoo-ha, and you have to memorise them all if you want to win. But once you’ve mastered them, you will be swooping around the arena with panache.

Overdriven Evolution is a ridiculous package, even in shoot ’em up terms. There are seven game modes in Overdriven Evolution, and only a few of them overlap with each other. The core ones are Story, Arcade and Manic, which repackage the campaign in different forms, whether that’s playing without continues or without health bars. There are plenty of difficulty settings too, so every ability level is catered for. 

overdriven evolution review 3
This is a beast!

But then the modes get interesting. I’m a huge fan of The Line, even though I am truly terrible at it. This puts a moving, red, horizontal bar across the screen, and you lose as soon as an enemy passes it. We could have done with more variants of ships and waves in this minigame, but it makes you wonder what other titles would do with it. 

Also brilliant are the Challenges, which chop up sections of the campaign, applying feats to them. Can you defeat a boss in a certain timeframe, or waltz through a section without losing a life? There’s an achievement for each, as a tempting carrot. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, we were least enamored with the minigames that use the colour-matching. Color Reflex has you playing the least enjoyable sections of the campaign – the racing-themed ones, where you’re dodging through tunnels – with the added bonus of shooting the gems we talked about. It’s as unwieldy as the campaign, without the benefit of shooting stuff on the way. 

Colour-matching aside, Overdriven Evolution is a beast. It’s one of the most over-the-top shooters we’ve played, lighting up like a pinball table as you play. But it’s also stacked, absolutely full to the brim with game modes and challenges, making that £12.49 feel like some of the best money you’ve spent. Sure, it’s got presentation issues and some gameplay wrinkles, but if you’ve got any love for the shoot ’em up genre, then Overdriven Evolution will rise to the top of your leaderboard.


  • Overblown VFX and animations
  • Makes you feel constantly powerful
  • Big-ass bosses
  • Stuffed with game modes
  • Colour-matching always felt off
  • Hasn’t got its own visual identity
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, TOMAGAMESTUDIO
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PC
  • Release date and price - 25 August 2023 | £12.49
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Overblown VFX and animations</li> <li>Makes you feel constantly powerful</li> <li>Big-ass bosses</li> <li>Stuffed with game modes</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Colour-matching always felt off</li> <li>Hasn’t got its own visual identity</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, TOMAGAMESTUDIO</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PC <li>Release date and price - 25 August 2023 | £12.49</li> </ul>Overdriven Evolution Review
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