Overwhelm‘s goal is right there in the title. At a glance, it has all the trappings of a pixel-art action-platformer, but playing Overwhelm is a different story. From the game design to the sound, its sole purposes is to overwhelm the player through tense gameplay, limited resources, limited lives, atmospheric audio, and aggressive foes. It’s a action platformer about making you feel like you’re fighting against increasingly challenging odds, with only your skill and agility to succeed.
That design tenet is most evident in its blunt description of “enemies get power-ups and you don’t”. As you guide your gun-wielding knight deeper into Overwhelm‘s blood-red hive, each boss defeated imbues the creatures around you with new abilities. What was once an easily-killed bat is now an aggressively-charging flying beast requiring precise movement to evade, and that pattern applies to every enemy in the game.
But it’s not just the inverted power fantasy that gives Overwhelm its unnerving tense pacing. It’s how you only have three lives and only hit kills you. How every death reduces your field of view, swallowing the screen in inky blackness that allows enemies to ambush you more effectively. How the harsh alien tones that fill the air making it more challenging to pinpoint enemy locations as you descend deeper into the darker corridors.