What do you do when you’ve suffered the worst of the worst? When you’ve been dealt a great blow and you feel like you’re stuck? You keep moving forward, and that’s what Overcome is all about.
The Heart of Us
Overcome, by Overcome Studios, is a 2D side-scrolling action platformer where you play a literal heart. Falling down a high cliff and into darkness, the player goes through four different levels and defeating heart-shaped enemies.
Whilst the concept sounds simple, the game itself is far from it. Overcome is designed to make you feel anger like you’ve never felt it. Different enemies come with different quirks, such as hearts that can shoot fire and ice, or hearts that can charge at you or jump.
Each level comes with different obstacles that you must face, and there are different ways that the player can defend themselves. They can either jump past enemies and dodge firepower, or they can use a shield that can deflect firepower, and attack the enemies directly. With these choices, the player is open to different approaches to completing a level.
It’s All In The Metaphor
Whilst the pixel design and side-scrolling action is very simplistic, it’s everything else that makes this game truly unique.
Overcome was made by the indie developer Kabir Lal, who was influenced by his experience with cancer and grief. According to the Overcome Studios website, his goal is to:
“not only develop games that people enjoy, but to craft experiences that leave the player in a better place than they were from when they started playing the game.”
You truly understand this when you play Overcome. From the very first scene, the player can understand this. The player is standing in a colorful backdrop of blues and greens when, suddenly, a tidal wave of grey swarms the picture and a large, black heart appears behind the character; sending it down a cliff.
From then on, the first level is a grey palette, and you don’t have a lot to protect yourself. What’s interesting are the little details that are added to the level, which give everything more meaning.
In different stages, there are other hearts similar to you. Some fall down cliffs whilst others hide, not progressing onwards and stuck in their place. In a way, it represents the different ways that people deal with grief. Some can get stuck whilst others can’t deal with it and fall.
Fire and Ice
When the game progresses to the next level, the colour of grey changes to firey red and orange, surrounded by cliffs and lavas. This immediately reminded me of the second stage of grief: anger. In this level, you discover how to deflect firepower towards your enemies.
The player comes across larger enemies that are designed to charge at you. Then, when, it comes to the ice level, there are larger enemies that jump at the player instead of charging.
The way that the developer has designed these levels gives the game a bit more ambient backdrops, which also matches the soundtrack to the game very well. The different themes and colors make this simple game a lot more fun to play, and more captivating to continue.
Does It Deflect?
Whilst this was a great way to get through different stages quicker, it also came with some faults in terms of the control sensitivity. Whenever I tried to press ‘X’ to deflect the firepower, it would either work or it wouldn’t. At some points, pressing ‘X’ continuously would solve the issue. However, when it comes to this game, where each press of a button or movement forward is important, having these faults affect the pacing of Overcome.
Similar to the use of the shield, the way that you use the keyboard arrows to move your character is also very sensitive. At times where I would hesitate or press an arrow slightly, the character would move so much. Almost always, I found myself dying because I always hesitated or accidentally pressed a button. It got frustrating after a while.
What I appreciate about Overcome is the developer’s warning that the player will die a lot throughout their gameplay. This made my progression and my failures a lot easier to handle, because I knew that I would constantly fail. In some way, it gave me a greater understanding of why it’s important to fail, especially in the context of why the developer made this game.
Similar to grief, you’re going to have your low moments, but there’s nothing stopping you from trying to get through it; just as the checkpoints are your safe havens in the game.
This 2D side-scroller pixel project is simple, from its controls to its pixel design, but Kabir Lal has put so much into Overcome that it feels a lot more than simple.
The imagery and metaphors scattered throughout the game change it from a rage-quit game to one that you should move forward with, just for its message alone. It’s a short game but is a one-off experience. Whether you like side-scroller games or not, it’s worthwhile to have a look.
You can check out Overcome on their Steam page. The game is currently 10,99$ US or your regional equivalent.