Rhythm games are a lost art, in my opinion. I’ve fond memories of delving into titles such as Frequency and Amplitude, and like many I was enamored with the Guitar Hero series during the early years of the franchise (on a related note, DJ Hero was a truly remarkable game. That is all). Since the heydays of the early-to-mid aughts, there have been few entries in the rhythm genre which have truly captivated my attention.
When I first encountered Overpass (http://overpass.es/) during Dreamhack Austin 2018, I was immediately pulled in due to the relaxing visuals. The soft and bright color palette of the title is inviting, and the linear progression nature of each level is intuitive to gamers of all ilks. The calming color scheme is definitely an aesthetic differentiator as most popular rhythm titles (see: every aforementioned title and the recently reviewed bullet-hell/music mashup Just Shapes & Beats) contain bright, neon-infused lines and sharp colors. The signature look of Overpass creates a very calming atmosphere which is complimented perfectly by the stellar soundtrack, which I was told by developer Michael Molinari-in passing on the Dreamhack Austin floor-was created entirely by a single team. The gameplay is simple-you use your joystick/gamepad to move your cursor in the correct position and then press a single button for entry.
The previous mentioned linear progression nature of the title is truly exemplified by the game’s tagline of “A rhythm adventure from a new perspective.” Genre giants such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band traditionally have the player viewing their instruments/progression bar from the top-down, while the background serves as little more than stock footage. Overpass literally flips this genre norm upside down and has the player looking up for their input cues. This subtle change in perspective completely alters the journey of the player as the background is now in view. This inversion of the primary gameplay mechanic immerses the player in a journey as opposed to simply having them focusing on what the next input should be. I personally found this perspective complimentary to the overall relaxing and approachable atmosphere, as when looking up you’re inclined to look at the entire landscape in front of you, as opposed to the sometimes frantic nature of ensuring you’re pressing the correct button/note which can occur with other rhythm titles.
While we’ve touched on the soft color scheme of Overpass, the various locales the player pass through while completing levels are engaging and are worthy of mention as well. While they all vie for the players’ attention, they never prove distracting. During the limited time I previewed of the title on the Dreamhack floor, I saw players pass through bright, sunlit urban landscapes and moonlit desert locales, each of which provided an interesting backdrop for a viewer. While franchise staples such as Guitar Hero are known more for people-watching than gameplay viewing, a title like Overpass is a soothing experience to watch. The linear progression never feels jarring or frantic, the soundtrack-while expertly produced and quite polished-is laid back and relaxed. The frantic and high-pressure nature of the rhythm genre of games was something I’d never given much thought to until I saw how inviting and relaxing Overpass is.
Overpass is a promising title in the rhythm genre. While most genre heavyweights are marked by bombastic soundtracks, loud color palettes, frantic gameplay and a singular focus on inputs, Overpass is more about the player’s experience and journey through each level. With a relaxing soundtrack, soft color scheme and a unique perspective, Overpass seems like a unique change of pace for the genre and seems like a very approachable title. Below is a short gameplay video developer Michael Molinari was kind enough to play while I filmed on the Dreamhack floor.