Pressure Overdrive (Switch) Review – Kart Blanche
For the uninitiated, I’ll keep it brief; a courtroom skit in the iconic cartoon sees a waiter accused of injuring himself through a series of whacky, self-inflicted mistakes. In his defence, he grows irate and yells at the court in a truly awful imitation of a French accent that he is in fact not a clumsy, Clouseau-esque waiter.
It’s an extremely silly gag but it never fails to make me smile, a trait it shares with Pressure Overdrive. It’s clumsy, employees a cartoonish French schtick and despite its shortcomings, manages to leave you feeling satisfied.
If only for the moment.
Pressure Overdrive Review
An updated version of the 2013 game Pressure, Pressure Overdrive is developer Chasing Carrots second attempt at the genre-mashup racer. Though to call Pressure Overdrive a racer isn’t entirely accurate; the game is equal parts driving game and top-down, twin-stick shooter.
There are elements of a racing game mixed in there too, along with upgrade trees and a bonkers critique of capitalist greed.
Pressure Overdrive casts players as a disenfranchised young man named Morgan whose water has been stolen by the evil Count Soap. The Count is a monocle toting, maniacal capitalist whose cartoonish nature is matched only by his grand plan to sell access to Morgan’s water back to him for a profit. To combat the Count, Morgan is enlisted into La Resistance, a comically over-the-top group who also want to stop the Count.
It’s all extremely silly set dressing for the core mechanics but Pressure Overdrive leans hard enough into its own ridiculousness that you can’t help but be charmed by it all.
Fast and/or Furious
In order to stop the Count from enacting his schemes, Morgan is equipped with a steam-punk lite kart by La Resistance. This little buggy starts off with a basic rail gun, frame and boost but over the course of the game can be upgraded with dozens of unique weapons, armour and special abilities.
These upgrades are purchased using currency earned during the courses by destroying enemies and will even eventually net you new karts to take out onto the course.
All of these upgrades and different karts make changes to the two core meters that you’ll need to balance while driving. One is a standard health bar, which can be improved with armour upgrades, while the other is a Pressure bar. The Pressure bar dictates how fast your kart can move as well as serving as your ammo source for your weapons.
Balancing these elements during a highspeed race can be tricky but Pressure Overdrive carefully pulls it off with a mixture of well-timed checkpoints and enemy placements. The checkpoints serve as a refuelling station of sorts while destroyed enemies will drop Pressure refills and the like in a constant stream that once perfected allows players to glide through combat.
Each race ends with a report card style breakdown of your performance, awarding star rankings for stats like time, enemies defeated and currency earned. For a budget title, the replayability and reward structure here is surprisingly deep; while the number of available karts is a little low, the seemingly endless combinations of upgrades makes for an experience you want to dive back into again and again.
Pressure Overdrive is more than equipped to handle this too, offering up an Endless Mode which puts players on an endless track with the single goal of survival.
The core kart upgrade system and replayability are hampered somewhat by Pressure Overdrive‘s simplicity. Providing players with a bare minimum set of mechanics isn’t inherently a bad thing but this design ethos seems to have permeated all aspects of the game.
Pressure Overdrive offers up over 30 levels for Morgan to blast his way through and while they are all brightly coloured and visually fun, they can often feel slightly too basic in design. Littered throughout are small obstacles and ramps to jump off, which pair beautifully with the game’s bizarre physics engine, but eventually, even these bursts of silly aren’t enough to keep the mind engaged in the driving.
Though the courses aren’t overly noteworthy, the stripped back take on a kart racer works a treat. Simply holding the stick forward is all the acceleration needed and while this provides a slight hitch in the rare instances you need to turn around, its typically a blast. The speed can feel a little grandpa-ish at times too but once you’ve got half a dozen capitalist pigs on your tail you might be thankful for the slower pace.
The enemy variety mitigates the over-simplicity issue somewhat thanks to clever designs and the endearing personality embued into each variant. There are your standard array of minions and brute types but as the game goes on you’ll be treated to a strange collection of motor-powered weirdos who won’t necessarily test your skill but will at least provide a decent hurdle.
The game’s handful of boss fights achieve the best cohesion of the twin-stick shooting mechanics and kart racing.
These stages serve as intervals between each set of courses and each boss is as fun as the last. These combat scenarios offer up the best of the game’s design with visually interesting enemies that require precision aiming and driving to get through their multiple stages.
The shooting itself is enjoyable if a little loose, but when paired with the repetitive levels it’s simplistic nature is laid bare. Weapon variety does its part to enhance the experience nicely but the core controls of the shooting can often let the experience down thanks to a slightly less than ideal sensitivity to movement.
The game also doesn’t offer anything in the setting menu to help off-set this issue, which would have been a simple solution to a simple problem.
Pressure Overdrive‘s performance on the Nintendo Switch is also unstable at times, with frame rate dips and complete freezes frequently interrupting my experience. At one point during a particularly intense boss battle, the game completely crashed, booting me out to the home screen menu.
These issues may be addressed in a later patch for the game but it is still disappointing to see such problems plague an otherwise fun experience.
Driving off into the Sunset
Which is important to note; Pressure Overdrive is a fun, lighthearted romp of a game.
From character art to the music to the writing it is a game overflowing with charm and likeability. The silly aspects mask the average mechanics well enough that for the relatively short time playtime, you’re bound to have a smile on your face.
It’s those same mechanics though that relegate the experience to a fun weekend, possibly with a friend in co-op mode, but to little else.
Years later I’m still smiling about the clumsy, Clouseau-esque waiter from The Simpsons but I’ll be lucky if I remember Pressure Overdrive next month.
Pressure Overdrive was reviewed on Switch using a digital code provided by the developer.
Game title: Pressure Overdrive
Game description: A fun, simple take on a twin-stick shooter/racer hybrid.
Charming premise - 8/10
Great boss fights - 8/10
Simple controls - 5/10
Repetitive level design - 6/10
Poor performance - 3/10