Review | 11/15/2016 at 7:00 AM

Overdriven Reloaded Co-Op Review

Space cows!

Overdriven Reloaded has so much going for it I'm tempted to just copy/paste a bullet point list of its features, make a lame pun about "bullet" lists for a shooter, then tell you to go play it. The remake of the classic Overdriven has six game modes, four levels of difficulty, hidden alien artifacts to find, co-op for up to four players, gameplay that mixes puzzles with reflex based action, and space cows. Even if you're not much of a vertical shmup fan, this game's got something to make you happy.

Overdriven Reloaded is a vertical scrolling shmup reminiscent of old arcade games. You pilot a ship, surprise surprise, flying through half a dozen locations that are all packed to the edges with enemies and bullet patterns ready to end your day. The key to survival is not getting hit. Not getting hit means threading your sprite through moving gaps barely big enough to fit through, making you feel like a total badass every time you pull it off.

While you're trying not to die you'll be dishing out an appropriate level of death to the things shooting at you. Overdriven Reloaded is the kind of shmup where you'll be holding the fire button constantly, spraying bullets in places that may or may not have enemies in them, just because they might show up. Your gun upgrades as you collect power-ups, turning from a small shooter to a multi-directional blasting powerhouse. You've also got an overdrive shot, which unleashes a focused beam that does major damage at the cost of temporarily lowering your health. Big risk, but big gains.

Defeated enemies drop all kinds of items, everything from health packs to points stars and screen-clearing bomb refills. The basic idea is to kill the things that might kill you, avoid touching the bullets, and run into everything that looks semi-useful. Build up a reservoir of stuff for the mega boss battle at the end of each level. You'll need every ounce of firepower you can get to take down these big ships.

Rounding out its basic features, Overdriven Reloaded comes with a basic story mode, level specific arcade mode, healthbar-free manic mode, boss rush, challenge levels, and more than four dozen puzzle maps. Yes, puzzles, in a shmup. The idea is your ship can change colors at any time, allowing you to turn glowing orbs into different shades. A row of three or more vanishes, allowing you to keep flying.

Co-op in Overdriven Reloaded perfectly emulates the feeling of standing in an arcade with friends and pockets full of quarters. Up to four local players can join in at any time by pressing enter/start on the keyboard or gamepad. There's no friendly fire, but power-ups aren't on a per-user basis, so you'll have to share. Players can drop in or out at anytime, and the game doesn't seem to change the frequency or strength of enemies depending on how many people play. That means two people will have an easier time, four will practically burn through foes like leaves in a bonfire.

Overdriven Reloaded sticks a lot of optional features into the experience for no reason other than to give us more things to do. The modes listed above provide a ton of variety, but you can also change story mode's difficulty every time you play, starting with easy and moving to normal, hard, and nightmare. There's also a great deal of hidden stuff to collect, like 35 alien artifacts and the secret space cows. It's shocking how much fun hunting for hidden stuff is in a shmup. With all the bullets flying around and your attention razor focused on edging out death, it's nice to try looking at something else for a change.

Shmups tend to attract the same core group of followers no matter when or where they're released. This has given them a definite reputation in the gaming world, one that nudges out strangers or anyone casually interested in shooting things, vertically or otherwise. Overdriven Reloaded takes steps to mend that relationship without alienating core genre fans. The difficulty toggles are a great first step, as are the multiple modes and hidden items. Multiplayer can totally change the experience for the better, so if you've got a friend competent enough to hold a gamepad, invite them over. Trust me, you'll have fun.

It's got style, it's got variety, it's got a killer rock soundtrack, and it's got four player co-op. Overdriven Reloaded opens up the vertical shmup genre for players of all interests and skill levels to come in and play. Start with a little casual shooting, then switch on nightmare mode and see what you and your friends are made of.