Overloop is an action-packed puzzler about an insidious tech company that uses cloning technology to take over the city. As the technician who invented the cloning device, you must break away from your work responsibilities and redeem yourself by liberating Infinity City from the evil clutches of your corrupt boss.
In Infinity City, Infinity Inc. Laboratory successfully creates a cloning device. As a technician working at the company, you unveil the QMRD to the public with resounding success. One year later, the repercussions of such an invention have been huge; Infinity City is heavily policed, clones protest for individual human rights, and ‘Originals’ have been made homeless after their ‘Clone’ took over their lives. One day at work, your colleague is arrested for treachery. His sacrifice encourages you to check out what’s hidden in the basement of Infinity Inc., and it is here where you are forced to participate in a gruelling exercise of survival while uncovering a massive conspiracy on the way.
Assisted by the AI Dennis, who resides over the Clone Test Program, you use the QRMD gun to clone yourself to solve puzzles. As only the Original can exit each room, clones are sacrificed (and subsequently abandoned) to aid the Original in reaching his goal. As is the norm with puzzlers, the difficulty increases with the rate of complexity. Once the QRMD is upgraded to pump out more clones, it has a quantitative effect on what Oveloop has available to throw at you.
Each level has crystals to collect, most of which can be acquired from their precarious position by sending a clone to go and get it. Collecting crystals is of course optional but puzzle rooms are small and encourage experimentation, so it’s impossible not to have some fun decimating the numerous clones you can spontaneously generate for your own greed.
Overloop takes place across various locations within Infinity City, including the wasteland beyond it, and the attention to detail in each level is indicative of this. Infinity Inc. Lab’s basement has greenery sprouting throughout it, reminding you that it’s not seen the light of day in a while. The Wonder Train is red, evoking the Hogwarts Express from Harry Potter, and it is full of happy passengers excited about the journey.
Puzzles consist of reaching a door but the door is blocked by a series of deadly obstacles – usually lasers, sharp objects and militia armed to the teeth. There’s not much difficulty involved, as all puzzles are achieved by throwing numerous clones at the problem until you can brute force your way to the door. Later levels introduce the necessity to collect a key to unlock the door but this is nothing more than an extra challenge (if it can even be called that).
Puzzles are generally unimaginative and are ideal for casual sessions where copious amounts of thinking is not required. Overloop isn’t trying to be a brain teaser; it’s simply a fun sci-fi short story with a cool cloning mechanic. When Overloop isn’t asking you to solve puzzles, it provides you with some detox levels that allow you to relax a little bit, and they mostly serve the plot by providing exposition and helping you transition from one location to the other. Rather than being filled with danger, they’re an opportunity to speak with people and learn more about the consequences of Infinity Inc. and the QMRD.
Overloop has a low-fidelity pixelated style which is equal parts nostalgic and modern. Picking this art style is a smart choice because it isn’t distracting and helps you focus on the job at hand.
For a game with such a simple visual approach, the backgrounds are layered with detailed features that bring the environments to life. You might not spend much time admiring your surroundings but the little touches are there for those who do. Lighting has been used effectively here too, which helps add to the realism and depth of this 2D world.
Unsurprisingly, a lot of attention to detail has been dedicated to the gore. When a clone or enemy dies, Overloop doesn’t shy away from sending blood and lumps of flesh cascading all over the scene. It’s cute and disgusting at the same time. As you will be dying often, it deserves appreciation.
Overloop has an eerie soundtrack that creates the perfect backdrop as the conspiratorial events of the story unfold. Sound effects are both minimalist and arcade-like, which partially adds to its overall tone and sense of humour but it also feels a little cheap and undeveloped.
There is one stand-out use of audio that is worth highlighting though. There’s no spoken dialogue throughout Overloop; characters let out little bleeps as you cycle through their text. But during the train level, the lady on the tannoy speaks actual words! It’s a world-breaking moment that carries gravitas and a sense of divinity, as if to say she is more powerful than anyone else. It would have been so much more relevant if this had been used for the antagonist instead. It would have made them more menacing and intimidating, for sure. It’s an odd choice to have used this on some background noise during a throwaway train-boarding scene where the impact isn’t as important.
Overloop is too short and can be powered through in a couple of hours. Which is a shame because it has a lot to offer. There are interesting discussions to have about the morality of cloning but it only scratches the surface. The focal point eventually shifts from the consequences of cloning to something more absurd and fantastical. This isn’t a problem per-say, it’s just strange to shift from one topic to another without fully realising the first one.
Similarly, the idea of sacrificing clones for your own benefit is at odds with the player’s agency. Overloop wants you to think the clones are being coerced into killing themselves but because you (as the player) control the clones in the same manner that you control the protagonist, it actually feels consensual and not malicious at all. It could get more meta than that, with the protagonist realising he’s the one being puppeteered just as easily as he is controlling his clones but I think everyone would agree that Overloop isn’t the right place to explore this idea.
Should you play it? Yes
Why… Overloop is a nice, little refreshing dessert after a main course. Cloning is quick to learn and fun to experiment with. Overloop is quite funny at times too, which only adds to the enjoyment. If it wasn’t for the gore, it would be a great introduction to the puzzle genre as it isn’t too difficult.
But… Overloop is such a short game, and it’s a huge shame because the concept has so much potential. Puzzles are quite repetitive and enemies aren’t as varied or as interesting as they could have been. It’s such a good game that the only downside is that there isn’t more of it!
Reviewed on Xbox Series S
Developer: Charge Games
Playable on: Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4/5, Switch, PC
Released: 24th March, 2023