A heavy storm rages overhead; dark clouds blot out the sky while people scurry about the city streets trying to conduct their daily lives and cars rush past to get to their destinations. Rain cascades against the buildings as a woman, stripped to her underwear, walks into the road. Screaming, she fires a gun multiple times into the sky as the downpour falls against her body and washes away stains of blood… This dramatic introduction sets the stage for a unique adventure to come, and while the rest of the game never quite lives up to the excitement of its opening, Overclocked: A History of Violence does prove to be a fascinating title for those who enjoy a good story.
In the latest adventure from House of Tales, David McNamara is a forensic psychiatrist employed to investigate the cases of five young men and women who were found scattered across New York City, all carrying guns but with no memory of what happened and how they got there. Playing as David, it is the player's role to delve into their minds through the use of hypnosis to unravel the secrets behind their psychotic behaviour. Yet David himself is a troubled individual, plagued by disturbing dreams and experiencing erratic bursts of violent behaviour. With his relationship with friends at a breaking point, his career seemingly a shadow of its former self and a marriage on the rocks, David has to fight his own demons as well as discover the root cause of his mentally unstable patients' problems.
Overclocked is a third-person, point-and-click adventure which uses a simple system for exploring the world and interacting with objects or other people. The mouse cursor changes when something can be looked at in more detail, with other possible actions becoming apparent in context, and your inventory is always visible at the bottom of the screen for easy access. Topics of conversation are represented by icons, meaning none of the dialogue tree complications that plagued the studio's previous effort, The Moment of Silence, are present. Bizarrely, early on in the game your character will receive a map, yet it serves little purpose other than allowing him to leave the current area, and it would have been nice to use as an interactive item. However, walking around the locations is very straightforward, with auto-exits and the ability to run moving things along.
What is immediately apparent upon leaving David's hotel is the attention to detail that has been lavished on the environment. The stormy weather is very impressive, proving to be incredibly realistic, particularly when the rain is seen splashing in the puddles. There are reflections in windows and even marble surfaces have a mirrored sheen. But while the locations are well realised and reflect the gloomy nature of the game, the animations could have been improved. All characters have a slightly unnatural way of walking, with running proving more comical than effective. And although close-ups of faces are reasonably detailed, lip syncing rarely matches the dialogue and the characters at times have forced expressions that don't seem natural. The cutscenes, of which there are plenty scattered throughout the game, are cinematic and well constructed, adding to the atmosphere and immersing you more into the world. The one criticism is that there is a substantial loading time before each one, which can break the illusion of exploring another world just when the story is building dramatic momentum.
After gathering David's belongings, it's time to travel by ferry to Staten Island, where the mental hospital housing the patients awaits. It is here you'll meet the first two main characters of the game, the presiding doctor and his assistant, who are less than welcoming towards David and prove a hindrance throughout the investigation. Upon meeting the patients, it becomes imperative to unlock some of the patients' memories with narrative triggers, which is done with either inventory items or clever use of the PDA. David's PDA, which also has the ability to make phone calls and receive messages, primarily acts as a voice recorder for his patients' sessions, and replaying the appropriate recording is frequently necessary to trigger new memories in other patients. To begin with, it's hard to know what might be important, as it is an unusual approach to puzzle solving, but once you get your head around this game mechanic, it becomes second nature. After a while, you really get into the role of the psychiatrist and feel that you are delving into the minds of others.
Triggering memories is only the first part of the challenge, however, and it's the rest that really separates Overclocked from most adventures. Once a memory has been accessed, the screen blurs, splits in two, and goes briefly black and white before focusing entirely on the patient. It is at this point that you take on the role of the actual patient reliving his or her own memory. Since the memories occur only in small fragments, these are very linear gameplay segments, only ever comprising a few rooms and just as many items, so there is little scope for deviation from the game's script. This may disappoint those who look for more freedom in their adventures, but it continually adds to the intrigue, keeping you guessing as to the patient's motivations, what's really going on, and how it fits into the overall plot, as it soon becomes clear that the backgrounds of the patients are directly connected.Continued on the next page...