Overmorrow Review - Screenshot 1 of 6
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Overmorrow, the debut release from solo developer PixelManta, manages to be philosophically interesting, is evocatively written, visually distinct, and lovingly crafted. Yet, the notion of re-playing it – which you’ll effectively need to do by design – is a tall order, and therein lies the unfortunate problem with this otherwise commendable maiden indie effort.

When we reported on Overmorrow’s central mechanic of a player’s save data being deleted after 30 in-game days, the comment section was abuzz with discussion over the merits of such game design. A player’s time is precious, and holding a sword of Damocles over save data is one of the most provocative decisions a developer can make.

Overmorrow sets you on a seemingly deserted island with 30 days to uncover its secrets before all progress resets. You gain elemental magic spells that manipulate the environment and are essential to puzzle-solving and progression. But spells can be deployed in a very limited quantity each day and can only be restored after a night’s rest at a campfire.

Overmorrow Review - Screenshot 2 of 6
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Each passing day brings you closer to the impending doom of Overmorrow, a save-wipe that serves as a metaphor for the fleetingness of life itself. Ephemeral themes abound in the game’s evocative writing, imbuing it with a sense of Memento mori. To be sure, there is beauty in Overmorrow’s message and inspirations. With a unique, triangular mosaic art style, nothing else quite looks like it. As each day passes, headstones appear in a scenic graveyard that prompt us to reflect on those who lie below. But the hard truth is that such a game lives or dies on its gameplay fundamentals, and there are core issues here.

Chief among them is that the launch Version 1.0.0 of the game contains a bug that prevents the campaign from being completed. The developer is aware of the issue and a patch is on the way. Though we weren’t able to complete the story as a result, we’ve seen the lion’s share and have spent plenty of time with it to form a clear opinion. We spent up to four hours on each of our playthroughs trying to see everything, but the game can be tackled in around one to two hours if you know what you’re doing.

Time loops feature in games like The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, Outer Wilds, and Minit, with each necessitating, in different ways, the management of your actions within a set time. Common to these acclaimed titles is the risk of squandering time and losing progress while retaining knowledge gained from previous loops. In such games, a solid foundation is essential.

Overmorrow Review - Screenshot 3 of 6
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

While Overmorrow draws heavy inspiration from these mechanics, its unguided exploration suffers from flawed design choices that necessitate a trial-and-error approach to solving its many riddles. There are finite opportunities to actually solve its often cryptic puzzles and plenty of opportunities for unfair deaths or accidental inputs.

The odds of beating the game on an initial playthrough unguided are nil. Apart from a brief linear section at the start to familiarise you with using magic, there is little explanation of objectives or signposting of hints. Several early barriers to progress are not at all clearly indicated, and we discovered the solutions largely by chance. You are free from the onset to explore the island and find magic crystals that increase your daily allotment of spells, which are enacted by holding down the shoulder button and pressing either 'A', 'B', 'Y', or 'X'. Overmorrow doesn’t always clearly specify which button each elemental magic is tethered to, which created a great deal of needless initial confusion for us.

Overmorrow Review - Screenshot 4 of 6
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

It doesn’t help that the game’s abstract art style often makes it difficult to discern which elemental magic to deploy in a given situation, often leading to a mistaken expenditure of resources and a poorly utilised day. As a result, an initial sense of discovery soon gave way to immersion-breaking frustration that detracted from the overall experience.

There were also numerous instances where we questioned whether something was a bug or a deliberately designed element. Navigating through the game’s poisonous mushroom forest, for one, is supposed to kill you, but we were able to brute-force our way through by exploiting pockets within the map, which did not seem like an intended or elegant way to proceed.

Once we collected all our base elemental magic and developed a clearer understanding of what the game expected of us, we were able to hit the ground running and quickly opened up new areas of the island, as well as puzzle-laden dungeons and hidden areas. Overmorrow is at its best when you are able to discover without too much second-guessing or friction. It's designed for multiple playthroughs, with the initial run being one of discovery and a failure to race the clock, and subsequent runs made easier with retained knowledge. But such design is premised on the notion of gameplay being compelling enough for you to want to do it all again. Overmorrow assumes too much of you.

Overmorrow Review - Screenshot 5 of 6
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

While we got deeper down the rabbit hole on our second playthrough, the novelty of crisscrossing its world and re-solving its puzzles faded and became laborious. Save-wiping may be a compelling thematic and metaphorical device, but in gameplay terms, it came to feel like an excessive setback, particularly given the game’s broader lack of guidance.

In Overmorrow’s second half, brief physical contact with obstacles like black holes, jellyfish, or falling into lava after making the wrong control input over a narrow dungeon path costs you an entire day. Theoretically, one could still have a few days to go before the save-wipe and not have sufficient stocks of magic discovered to even finish the game, which is a real drag. There’s no timer on in-game days, which last until you return to the campfire with your magic depleted, or if you succumb to taking damage from some of the aforementioned threats.

Overmorrow Review - Screenshot 6 of 6
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Overmorrow’s soundtrack was composed by Canadian singer-songwriter Jim Guthrie, who worked on the acclaimed Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP. His music certainly builds on the atmosphere of the game’s various environments, though you can expect to hear the same tune on loop if you’re stuck with a particular puzzle. The game’s sound design can be a little choppy at times, though, particularly in the mushroom forest area where a discordant melody can abruptly cut in and out depending on where you walk, which felt unrefined.

Though the frame rate didn’t often perceptibly chug, we did experience at least one crash and two bugs that necessitated a reboot: one involved the player character clipping into a wall and being stuck there, while in another section the map completely disappeared, and we were left wandering across a nondescript blue screen. Yikes.

Conclusion

Overmorrow has its share of satisfying eureka moments and is a compelling concept. While there is a genuine purity of intent behind its development, it would benefit greatly from more fine-tuning and playtesting. If its numerous bugs and issues are eventually ironed out, and quality-of-life improvements added, it would indeed be a journey worth taking for players interested in its premise – but be prepared for moments of frustration along the way.