I’ve spent the past few days recharging my batteries throwing old ladies into the sea, stealing from orphans, and enjoying my illegal affair with a handsome captain. I have to admit it’s an unorthodox schedule, but one that really works for me.
I play Over board!, a narrative title about killing my husband and trying to get away with it. The game starts with me, a breakneck celebrity from the 1930s aboard a cruise ship, throwing my husband overboard during the night. When I wake up the next morning, I have to choose the right conversation options to avoid suspicion. Meanwhile, other people are moving around the ship and drawing their own conclusions. I also move from place to place to intercept my fellow travelers and influence their point of view or maybe return to the crime scene to clean up evidence or bribe a witness. It’s a stylish visual novel that focuses on timing, experimentation, and repetitive, inevitable mistakes.
Every single playthrough can be super fast and maybe only take seconds if I make a really stupid mistake like deciding to take an early morning sleeping pill. But every time my insidious act ends, I get a chance to try again with a little more information and insight.
Over board! lets you enjoy playing as the protagonist who sucks. There are few ifs and buts; she is just awful. She starts the game by murdering someone and only escalates from there. Drug an old lady? Sure, when it gets the job done. Or, if you want to keep those sweet, sweet sleeping pills, you can just toss the old lady into the sea where she inevitably perishes. Tomayto, Tomahto.
There are two things that make this type of character palatable to play. The first is that the protagonist isn’t the worst person on the ship. The story takes place in the 1930s and her dead husband is a huge fan of Hitler and fascism. He owes people money and obviously has no intention of paying it back. He’s even having an affair! It feels like a delicious, malicious justice imbued with killing him over and over again. It’s also exciting to see what I can get away with: Can I redeem my husband’s life insurance policy? Can I run away with a new love Every run reveals new wrinkles as I try to do something absolutely terrible, like bribing lawmen or blaming my husband’s lover for his murder.
It’s a unique type of power fantasy for a single player game. When I play other games with difficult narrative choices, like the Mass Effect series, I try to be a hero. Most games try to make me feel classy, or at least neutral. Over board! goes with a completely different formula. I’m a huge idiot who gets by on sheer moxie. Over board! is also short and sweet enough that the role never really gets thin, and the more I learn about everyone else on the ship, the more justified I feel in my cartoonish villainy. Goodbye, old ladies. Sorry, orphans. I’m after myself and just myself, and I feel pretty good about it.