Attempting to get away with homicide in the presence of a detective is pure folly, but that’s never stopped Agatha Christie’s villains, has it? Still, they all stumble in the end – Poirot and his fellow sleuths are just that good, ain’t they?
Overboard! has no such detective figure (well, not quite), so the plan to push my broke, fascist-sympathising husband into the ocean and claim his life insurance ought to be a doddle. But it turns out – can you believe it? – murder just isn’t that simple.
inkle’s (Heaven’s Vault, 80 Days) latest is a visual novel whodunnit placing you in the role of one Veronica Villensey, the aforementioned murderer. Travelling from miserable England in the mid-1930’s aboard the SS Hook to America, you’re not far from port when Veronica decides to push her husband Malcolm overboard.
But there’s no careful, intricate plan to follow in the hours succeeding the murder, no setup in which suspicion is immediately allayed. No, Veronica Villensey had simply had enough of sordid little Malcolm, took the opportunity to rid herself of him, and proceeded to make it up as the day unfolded.
Or rather have you do it for her.
In Overboard! you have several key goals, chiefly pertaining to either pinning the murder on someone else or framing it as an accident. Sadly for Veronica, suicide will not lead to the handsome life insurance policy she covets (and why shouldn’t she have it, I kept thinking to myself?). But each step forwards fulfilling those goals presents new complications; if, say, a passenger saw you commit the deed and yet declined to dob you in, what exactly do they want?
Because everyone wants something – it’s just a matter of whether or not it’s to your advantage.
And the SS Hook is full of desiring souls. Well-written, funny, and cheeky personalities, you’ll find getting to know them – and their secrets – is as rewarding as it is amusing. Which is good, because you’re going to be meeting them again and again until you properly nail down your strategy for success.
The potential for tedious repetition is largely minimised by the ability to fast forward through scenes, and previous choices are indicated in green. You can also restart any scene you’re playing should you wish to take a different tact.
But even with these mechanics in play, the surprise consequences laced into every choice make the repeated journeys worthwhile. Just when I thought I had it down – secure in the knowledge that Malcolm was gone, his money mine, and his eccentric mistress framed for the deed – Overboard! threw another curveball, that bugger.
And so back to the beginning I went, frowning in consternation but eager to commit that perfect crime. I’m determined to succeed, having grown to rather like Veronica, in spite of the sly, flirtatious sociopath that she is. It reminded me of the 1994 film The Last Seduction, where I found myself rooting for Linda Fiorentino’s sadistic monster, who was likewise saddled with a repellent husband she wanted very much dead. It’s the men, see, they’re just rubbish…
Pretty, funny, with sharp writing and plenty of surprises, Overboard! is a delight. Even when you finding yourself nodding away at homicide, which I feel obligated to remind you is Bad.
Unless you’re Team Veronica, of course.