Fuel Overdose is a strange game. In one aspect, it’s a traditional overhead racing game inspired by R/C car racers. In another, it’s a lite RPG focusing on plot and narrative. It doesn’t really succeed all that well in either respect. And had it focused on just one side of the coin, it would fail miserably. But much like mashups of popular music, Overdose blends together just enough of what makes either side interesting, allowing the result to be a crazy experience that at times is so bad that it’s stupid fun.
The mechanics of the game are extremely simple; it’s not a technical racer by any means, finding a base in kart racing games but with an overhead perspective. The controls take a couple of races to nail down, but after that it becomes fairly easy to end up in the top three spots of any finish. It can get a little clumsy and hectic, especially when more than a couple of vehicles are on the screen at once. It seems like the AI-controlled vehicles spun out and crashed as often as I did, so pileups were common. This leads to vehicles becoming damaged quickly, eventually blowing up and losing precious seconds on the track. The tracks are varied and inventive, ranging from collapsing cities and bridges to winter scenes, to deserts. I never feel like I am replaying assets from one course to another, so each environment feels fresh and interesting to drive through.
The cars are allowed an assortment of weapons from which to choose to stock up on, from short-range energy shocks (which were mostly useless, from what I found) to heat-seeking rockets. In between races the weapons can be purchased or upgraded, but because of a lack of any real explanation on the monetary rewards system I find myself rarely bothering with them. In fact, in the game’s story mode, it doesn’t seem like the race winnings even matter, as often times other characters will sabotage the cars to remove weapon access.
Overdose’s story is bonkers. Set in a post-apocalyptic future, racing tournaments decide who receives supplies. Each of the game’s playable characters bring with them their own reason to enter the races, interacting with the other characters along the way. The mini-plots are reminiscent of how fighting games often follow the narrative of whoever the player selects to move ahead with. Along the way friends will sabotage my cars, enemies will fall in love with me, and family connections are made, broken, and made again. In fact, it’s worth playing through the plots of a few of the characters just to see how off-the-wall they can get, each seeming to top the previous.
The game has a great presentation, featuring multiple layers of graphical interface that is both clean and matches the apocalyptic feel of the world. The menus are minimal, allowing for several quick entry points to jump into play with the various modes. Visually the game does a nice job of being modern and enjoyable. There are typos in almost every sentence, though, especially during the narratives. It leads to some pretty funny instances of trying to figure out if we are reading character accents or if one of the developers forgot to run a spell check. Though English isn’t any of the developers’ primary languages, it still feels like the game was a bit rushed and these things missed. The characters themselves come off as hyper-manga and overly sexual, often completely stereotypical. Boobs, muscles, and school-girl skirts are everywhere. It’s as if the developers raided a DeviantArt group for fan fiction to an F1 or NASCAR season.
It’s important to note that during the review period the online multiplayer wasn’t working at all. Not only could I not find anyone to go head-to-head with, but it seemed as though the issues were from the game’s side and not for the lack of players. That may be for the better, as traditional multiplayer would only create more unneeded chaos in the races as pileups would happen too often. I’d much rather prefer some sort of asymmetric multiplayer in this case, with ghost racers or being able to set traps for other drivers on the track. If the developers can get the multiplayer working then it’ll be a full, finished experience. Even without it though, I’m not held back from playing the single-player campaign.
Fuel Overdose has a bunch of issues, but it’s still stupid-fun. I don’t know if it’s trying to be serious or not, or if the developers even know that the game comes off as half-baked, but it’s certainly entertaining. Just following the individual plot lines is enough reason to come back to the game a few more times.