STAFF REVIEW of Overdriven Reloaded: Special Edition (Xbox One)

Friday, March 23, 2018.
by Adam Dileva

Overdriven Reloaded: Special Edition Box art If you’ve read any my previous reviews, you’ll know that I’m an avid fan of shmups (shoot em ups). These are the games with a ship of somesort that flies, usually vertically, avoiding a barrage of bullets on-screen while collecting power-ups. There are some classics in the genre that others are inevitably compared against, such amazing games like Raiden, Gradius, and my personal favorite of all time, Ikargua. There’s no shortage of games in the genre, so to stand out you need to do something special if you want to get noticed. So, the question remains, does the one-man developed Overdriven Reloaded: Special Edition have that distinct mechanic or design to become noticed? Well, there are some color matching that takes place, making it somewhat unique.

Overdriven Reloaded: Special Edition (simply referred to as Overdriven in this review) starts out completely normal, with you choosing one of two ships, unaware of what the differences are. Well, it turns out that one ship’s fire pattern is a spread shot while the other is much more narrow and focused. So, you will want to take that into account when deciding which ship will better suit your playstyle. The stages slowly scroll upwards as you navigate the enemies, traps, and of course bullets. Much like nearly every other shmup, there are collectibles for you to gather (gold stars) to earn points and power-ups to grab to make your weapons stronger and faster.

You have a dedicated button to change your lasers to different colors, such as red, blue, green or yellow, which is the unique and interesting mechanic of Overdriven. While there’s no difference on what color your weapons are when shooting them, you’ll occasionally come across colored orbs blocking your path. Some are permanently a specific color, while others can be changed with your colored fire. The trick is to notice which one is the permanent orb and then match the attach orbs to that same color, as they will only disappear when three of the same color are touching.

Most of the time these simply block off (Editors Note: See what we did there?) a secret artifact to pick up, but sometimes it will also open an easier path as it allows you to avoid the bullets coming at you. It’s an interesting idea, one that took me by surprise, but there’s only a few sections in the whole game that this mechanic is relevant, plus trying to do so when the screen is full of enemies and bullets is quite a challenge.

Aside from this interesting color mechanic, everything else in Overdriven plays like your standard shmup for the most part. The Left Stick controls your ship and the ‘A’ button is used for your regular shots, though using the ‘X’ button allows your ship to go into 'Overdrive'. What this does is replace your regular shots with an incredibly focused and condensed laser that does much more damage, but the catch here is that you move incredibly slowly. Your health is also reduced to 20%, so it’s a risk vs. reward move, as it makes you incredibly vulnerable when being used. Stop using 'Overdrive' and your health will regenerate. Finally, the ‘B’ button will let you use your bombs, clearing the screen of all bullets and doing massive damage.

While I really like the classic 1-hit death in shmups, as it promotes perfection and skill, it was refreshing to have something different in Overdriven. Instead of the standard one bullet kill, you have a health bar, so it’s a little more forgiving. There are also health packs that can be collected from destroying specific enemies, refilling your health gauge, as well as collecting extra lives, so while it may seem much easier because of this, don’t let that fool you, you’ll still die plenty of times.

When you do die, you’ll respawn with only your basic weapons and without all the power ups, so you need to really be careful when you die. Don't worry though, power ups aren’t usually uncommon and you’ll have decent firepower after a short while. Should you lose all your lives, you’ll be given the option to restart the stage again, though you can choose to select any unlocked level as well, which is great as you don't have to start all the way back form level one.

What took me by surprise was the multiplayer offering. Two players isn’t uncommon for shmups, but four players is., but surprisingly Overdriven allows up to 4-players to play together locally (yes, sadly no online multiplayer support), turning the chaos up to 11. I’m unable to tell if there are more enemies with more players, but even with two players the general chaos on the screen was doubled. There’s already a lot of visual stimulation playing alone, so adding more friends only ups the commotion on the screen at once.

Once you’ve bested the final boss and completed the story mode, there’s plenty of more mode offerings for you to check out, not including the multiple difficulty levels. Arcade mode is simply the Story Mode but with the ability to continue when you lose all your lives, and Manic Mode is the same as the Story Mode, but much more difficult. There’s a handful of challenges awaiting you as well, each tied to a specific achievement, like killing a certain boss under a specific time, beating a level under 6 minutes, or not getting hit. There’s only a handful of them but they are fun challenges for a distraction.

Although I was disappointed with the number of times you get to use the color mechanics, you’ll be pleased to know there’s a ton of mini-levels that focus solely on this mechanic in Color Reflex mode. Here there’s no enemies, just lots of colored orbs blocking your path to the exit, so you need to constantly swap colors and clear a path for your ship to get through. The beginning levels start easy, but eventually it does become more challenging. The mode I really enjoyed though was The Line. Here you have to stop never ending enemies from reaching, well, a line at the bottom of the screen. Chaos ensues when you have dozens of enemies on screen, each shooting multiple bullets, while also keeping an eye on how close each enemy is getting to the line.

The visuals are very basic and there’s only a handful of enemies you’ll face, though it’s hard to look at much when you’re constantly avoiding bullets while your screen scrolls upwards, and there are stars, that clutter the screen, that are there for you to gather. The overall level design is pretty bland and basic but it does the job for a schmup. Finally, the audio is decent and fits the mood of the gameplay and genre, though nothing really stands out.

Leaderboards for most modes is a welcome addition, especially for those that want to claim bragging rights. Normally for a game like this with a price tag of over $10 (currently $10.29 CAD) it would be a hard sell, but, I love the genre, and even though I’ve finished what I want with this game, there’s a lot of content within for those that want to get more value out of it. Multiple difficulties, lots of extra modes, 4-player local co-op, and, one of the better points, it’s also an Xbox Play Anywhere title, so the value for the price is certainly here. It’s just a shame that the main color changing mechanic didn’t have a bigger spotlight, as it could have made Overdriven Reloaded: Special Edition stand out more in a crowded genre.

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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