Looks simple, but cuts deep.
For a series with so many entries, Phantom Breaker is certainly not a household name. Phantom Breaker Battlegrounds Overdrive has now landed on Sony’s shiny new console, bringing an extra subtitle and a few new trinkets of content. It is a solid beat ‘em up based on a fighting game most people have never heard of, and at face value it is certainly entertaining. The bright, colorful visuals are attractive, and the combat is sound, but the further I dig below the surface, the more the game pushes me away.
Overdrive is a standard beat ‘em up with a pixelated look. It is vibrant in its presentation, and reminds me a lot of the visual style of the Scott Pilgrim game. On the surface it seems simple. Face buttons perform combos, hordes of enemies flood the screen, and even the blinking arrow informing me to move right are all present. Underneath though is a deep and complex fighting system that rears its ugly head of necessity as soon as the first boss fight appears.
Price I’d Pay: $9.99
Multiplayer: 2-4 players
Now I have nothing against complicated brawlers. The problem with Overdrive is the lack of any type of explanation on how all these insane systems work. There is a “How to Play” buried in the menus for those that take the time, but a proper tutorial is definitely needed for some of the more complex combat. We are talking fighting game level stuff here. Guard breaks, burst gauges, and much more. Most of the fodder enemies don’t require much thought, but the boss fights; that is where things get hairy.
Bosses are difficult, and cheap. They sometimes have attacks that can drain an entire life bar in one hit. They don’t have long telegraphs, and they are immensely frustrating at times. This is where learning all the combat comes into play. Without knowing it, even on easy, I died…a lot.
For the PS4 version there are a few new bits of content, but nothing overly spectacular. There are new skills and attacks for all of the characters, which allow for more customization. There are new items to use, alternate routes in the levels, and some remixed music. There is still DLC available for purchase, which is a bit disappointing. Being the latest entry in the game, I assumed it would include all of that.
One thing I can’t know about Overdrive though, is its amount of content . There is a story mode, as weird and confusing as it is, and an arcade mode to play more casually. The Battleground mode is great for testing out leveled-up characters against hordes of enemies. There is even co-op and competitive modes, both online and off. I had a blast playing with friends, even though the chaos can become a little too much to handle at times. The competitive mode doesn’t fare as well, as some characters are highly overpowered, but it is still a neat diversion.
Phantom Breaker: Battlegrounds Overdrive is a solid game with a steep learning curve without much in the way of tutorials. For those with patience to learn its intricacies, it is extremely rewarding, and a ton of fun. For those looking for a casual romp through a mindless beat ‘em up, this is not the game for you.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.