Have you ever been in the middle of playing one of those bullet hell shoot-em-ups and suddenly thought to yourself “What would increase the amount of fun I’m having, would be to suddenly mix in some colour matching jewel gameplay, ala Bejeweled”? If you have thought that, then you are in for a treat!
Coming from The One Man Army (TOMA) studio is Overdriven Reloaded: Special Edition, a vertically scrolling shoot-em-up with one foot firmly in the retro camp, and the other in a kind of zany, colour matching, space cow collecting camp. Hopefully that sentence will begin to make sense as I go through the review!
On first play, all is pleasingly normal with Overdriven Reloaded. Your ship flies up the screen, dispensing laser based justice to the hordes of the Kruuthian Empire, who appear to be largely insects, house flies, dragonflies and so on. Collecting capsules powers up your ship, just as you’d expect, with hollow stars adding a rotating turret, while gold stars go towards your score. So far, so normal. However, a swift press of the Y or RB button will change the colour of the laser you fire, from blue to red, via yellow and green. This makes absolutely no difference to the vast array of baddies on the screen, they will die no matter what colour you shoot them with.
Where this does make a difference though is within the groups of various coloured crystals blocking your path, or maybe blocking off a side route. If you match your fire to the colour of the crystals and can make three crystals next to each other the same colour (they change to the colour you shoot them with) then the crystals vanish, just like Bejeweled, and the way ahead is cleared as if by magic. The cleared side paths can lead you to alien artefacts, which are needed to open later levels and allow progression, or to rescue Space Cows, which don’t seem to have any effect except to make Space Farmers happy.
The controls are simple and straightforward. The left stick moves your Overdriven ship, the A button fires the regular shot, and X makes the ship Overdriven. In this mode, the guns are replaced with an enormous single laser that can sweep the screen clear in one pass, but also reduces your health to around 20% and slows your movement down, making you even more vulnerable than usual. I found this best deployed against bosses when you finally begin to understand their bullet patterns, making short work of their health bars as long as you can keep the beam on them. Stopping being Overdriven sees your health and speed restored, so a mix and match approach can pay dividends. Finally, B triggers a smart bomb if you have one, causing destruction on an almost biblical scale. Add to this the colour switching mentioned above and you are ready to take on the baddies.
Up to four local players can take part in this mayhem, and it can be useful to have a helper along for some of the tougher levels. As you’d expect, as you move up the number of levels, the number of baddies, bullets and amount of swearing increases almost exponentially. I have tested this in local co-op with my son, and I have to say I was impressed with his ability to steal every single health pack and spare life that was going. I was also impressed with my restraint whilst in his company!
The multiplayer works very well, with no slowdown or hiccups to be seen, which was almost a shame, given the pace of the game. You know Danny Glover’s catchphrase in the Lethal Weapon films? Well, I really am getting too old for these fast paced shooters! Luckily, Overdriven Reloaded doesn’t go down the route of many, where one hit means death. Instead, your ship has a health bar that is whittled down by enemy hits, and can be refilled by picking red shields with crosses on – the universal symbol for health! There are also green shields to be collected, and these add one to your remaining stock of lives.
Dying is something that happens a lot in this game, and on occasion the way the game treats you after being destroyed can cause you to lose a lot of lives in one go. See, every so often, there are sections of levels where you have to blast your way through crates, or mines, for instance. When you’re fully tooled up this isn’t a problem, the obstacles just melt before you. If you die however, the ship that respawns has only the basic, weedy cannons on board, and these pathetic weapons can’t shoot the scenery fast enough to let you get through unscathed, and so you get stuck and the ship explodes again and again, rapidly using your meagre store of lives. Once they are gone it’s game over, and back to the start. Luckily the level select will let you start off on the same level, but it’s still a little discouraging to say the least.
Overdriven Reloaded isn’t short of game modes once you’ve completed the story mode. There is an Arcade mode, which seems a lot like Story mode except you can continue when you die, and Manic mode which does exactly what it says on the tin. There is also a Challenge section, where you get given tasks to complete, from completing level three without dying to hitting a certain score multiplier on the final boss. These Challenges are good fun, and have Achievements linked to them, making playing them even more rewarding.
There are also four sets of 14 levels (so 56 in total) of the colour matching mechanic. No enemies, just crystals in your way and you have to figure out the best colour to shoot them with in order to clear a path to the exit. These can get challenging as well, and certainly add something new to the shooting action. There’s also something called The Line, where you have to shoot enemies before they can cross a red line drawn at the bottom of the screen, which is a lot harder than it sounds. Add to this alien artefacts and cows to collect, and multiple difficulties in the Story mode ranging from Easy (it isn’t) to Nightmare (it most certainly is!) and this is one game that will keep you coming back for more.
In conclusion, Overdriven Reloaded is a big game, packing a lot of value and gameplay hours into a small space before you’ll be done with it. It isn’t as polished as Sky Force, for instance, but the roughness is part of the charm, in an endearing kind of way. With loads of ways to play, 4 player co-op and it being an Xbox Play Anywhere title, you can be playing this game until the (Space) cows come home. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this title, and if you like to shoot things, I think you will too.