Originally scheduled for release almost two years ago, Paradise's second
budget release is now finally available. Budget-priced at just £12.99,
Overload is a horizontally-scrolling shoot-em-up. It has no connection with the identically-titled game that Clares Micros released several years ago.
Given that Overload is a shoot-em-up, there's not really a great deal of opportunity for originality in the gameplay - if you've played
Planetoid or its arcade ilk then you know pretty much what to expect.
This doesn't mean that Overload has no originality, however, because
in terms of neat presentational touches it's bubbling over with enthusiasm.
Despite this, however, the gameplay is simple - you fly left and right
shooting aliens whilst collecting 'fuzzies' and delivering them back to your
rocket, whilst collecting powerups and extra energy pods. At the bottom of
the screen a wide 'radar' shows an overview of things happening just
off-screen, although it doesn't show the entire level.
For what is basically a very simple game, Overload has a surprisingly
intricate set of play mechanics. You have four separate sets of energy
bars to keep an eye on, representing weapons, thrusters, radar power and
oxygen. As you make different mistakes they become deplenished and you
lose the ability to move quickly, to use the radar or to fire quickly.
When all four bars are deplenished you lose a life, but you can collect
various different coloured balls to replenish individual bars - these are
sometimes released when enemies are killed. This system has the effect that
as you do badly the game gets harder, which helps add to the tension although is arguably a little unfair. Despite this complex system the game isn't
confusing to play - you can ignore the details pretty much with impunity.
This is indicative of the nicely polished gameplay, which is also pleasingly smooth with a good sense of pace. The multi-level parallax scrolling runs
at full-speed in 256 colours even on ARM 2 machines.
With the combined movement of the aliens and yourself the overall speed of
the game can be extremely fast, and you move too slowly to avoid some of the
faster enemies - it's sometimes a bit too fast. To help avoid this
problem you have to watch both the onscreen radar (to give you warning of
what's coming) and the main play area, which takes a little practice but
isn't really that difficult. Many collisions are totally unavoidable, but
once you realise that this is just part of the game you don't mind so much -
luckily you can take a lot of hits before you die. As well as aliens there
are also two different types of powerup to collect - to claim one you must
destroy a particular craft and then catch a pod before it hits the ground.
There are also refill podules dropped by destroyed craft, which get rarer
as the game progresses.
There is a reasonable amount of variety built into the game, which consists of four separate 'worlds' plus a final boss, because each world is broken into
five stages. The first is the basic game where you must rescue the 'fuzzies',
whilst in the second you have to destroy some stronger boss ships (which are
always the same). In the third you must just annihilate all the aliens, and
the fourth sees you collecting crystals whilst avoiding bouncing asteroids
and against a tight time limit. Bizarrely, you can't lose lives on this
fourth stage, which makes it futile and totally pointless (although it's quite fun!). Finally, in a trivially easy fifth stage you fly at a fixed speed
moving up and down in a rocket avoiding asteroids. It's a shame that the game
structure is so rigid, because whilst the first time through these five
different stages come as a pleasant surprise, by the fourth world the layout
has become far too routine - it would have been much more exciting if the
first world had consisted, for example, of just two different stages, and
then the extra stages were revealed as the game progressed.
The graphics and attack patterns change from world to world, which is
definitely a good thing, but the difficulty level is not as smoothly tuned as
it could be. The first world is very easy to the point that you can complete
it without really having a clue what you're doing, whilst the second isn't
really much harder. The third world then comes as a bit of a shock, being
massively harder than the preceding ones! Strangely, the fourth world then
regresses and is notably easier than the third because the aliens move
nowhere near as fast. Once all four worlds are finished you reach a final,
boss world featuring a creature which is pretty easy to destroy, and then the
game is completed. It only took me one and a half hours from my very first
play to totally finish the game! You then get to play the game again in
'turbo' mode if you want, although if you ignore the Speed Control
application the game comes with you could find yourself accidentally playing
it at hyper-speed right from the very beginning! It's worth pointing out,
though, that this ease of completion is possible due to the distribution of
passwords at the end of each world (although they scroll off the screen far
too quickly!) - if you play it as a pure arcade game, by not using the
passwords, then it will represent much more of a challenge! In any case,
you have to pretty good to finish the third world.
The presentation throughout the game is outstanding. The graphics are
simple but highly polished, and the game is packed full of little graphical
effects, such as 3D text explosions, which add to the manic arcade atmosphere
of the game. Between levels you get given simple animations and story
chunks, which are very nicely done, and the sound effects are also well-judged. The music is excellent, especially the superb soundtrack you are greeted with upon first loading the game, which helps build a suitable atmosphere.
It's also worth commenting that the tiny little case the game comes in (on
one floppy disc) is also very nicely presented, so it makes an excellent
Apart from the ease of playing through the game (although Paradise promise me
that extra levels will be available for download from their website!), I
really have almost no negative comments to make - the game is very much what
you would expect of a relatively simple horizontally scrolling arcade
shoot'em'up! If that's what you want to play then Overload is a good
choice, and at £12.99 it's not overpriced, plus it is compatible with pretty much all machines. But the best
recommendation of all is that it's great fun to play!
Download a demo version
Overload is compatible with all RISC OS machines with RISC OS 3.1 or above and 2MB or more. It also works with StrongARMs and RISC OS 4.
Overload is published by:
38 Marlborough Drive, Sydenham, Leamington Spa, CV31 1GD
Tel. (01926) 315907; Email firstname.lastname@example.org
...this page last updated: 3/7/00...
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