By Alec Meer on March 28th, 2008 at 2:17 pm.
I had a wee play with an early build of the English version of pointer-clickerer Overclocked yesterday. It’s from House of Tales, the German studio behind The Moment of Silence – a future-dystopia adventure game best known in Blighty for sponsoring Battlestar Galactica on Sky One, and in America for scoring 14% in PC Gamer US (our own John ‘the UK’s leading bunny-drawing adventure game critic’ Walker proffered a more forgiving 48% for The Real PC Gamer). Hopefully, though, they’re strong-like-ox for this’un.
Overclocked dials back MOS’ scattergun sci-fi in favour of modern-day psychological horror. Immediate touchstones are Max Payne – we’re in a gloomy, rain-slicked New York, in which everyone is preternaturally grumpy – and Fahrenheit/The Indigo Prophecy (or at least its first few hours) – this is a tale of murder and conspiracy, featuring an unhappy, guilt-ridden protagonist.
Your role is this dark melodrama is to play a troubled psychiatrist, previously thrown out of the military under mysteeeeeeeeerious circumstances, called in to establish why five near-catatonic yoof showed up half-naked and gun-wielding on the city streets.
Upon capture, they’re thrown into a bizarre asylum that’s half-hospital, half- well, I’m not sure, but for some reason it’s got a cockpit in the middle, staffed by sinister medical types who aren’t at all happy to have your help. It’s an enticing enough set-up, helped along by the seething hostility and mistrust of everyone you meet – understandable, as your guy is a mess. He’s incoherent, distracted, nervous and hits a deliberately cretinous middle-ground between too eager-to-please and sneery hyper-defensiveness. There are hints that there’s a reason for this – I’m guessing at booze or drugs. Best of all, the voice actor totally channels Shatner.
From what I’ve played, the puzzles are more centred around selecting dialogue and interaction options in the correct order to unlock new ones than they are about rubber chickens and pulleys. On the one hand, this makes for a game grounded in logic, playing out a little like 3D-enhanced interactive fiction rather than the fourth-wall breaking surreality of more outlandish adventure games. On the other hand, the one with the extra thumb, hang nails and knobbly growths, it may be too dependent upon wandering back and forth until you establish precisely which pixel or NPC needs to be clicked on to unlock the next bit. Actual deduction seems to take a bit of a back seat to trial-and-error, but this may change later in the game.
There’s also more than a whiff of the localisation issues that plague so many European adventure games sent English gamers’ way. The lead actor manfully adapts his slightly-off lines to more naturalistic dialogue, but many of the NPC voicemeisters are clearly not speaking in their mother tongue, which only amplifies the script’s fluctuating coherency. Clearly, this is less of a problem for some players than others, as The Witcher’s first edition proved.
Overclocked’ll need to really ramp up in its later hours to make anyone’s best-of-the-year lists, but it’s potentially an interesting enough story seed, protagonist and atmosphere to scratch a few folks’ adventuring itches.
More factoids on the Overclocked website, which is currently a bewildering mash-up of English text and German voices. And, lest you ask, I have absolutely no idea what, if anything, the silly title has to do with the game itself. Unless there’s a Front Side Bus-tweaking mini-game I haven’t seen yet.