Overgrowth Review: A Somber Tale About Ninja Bunnies
When I was asked to review Overgrowth, it was pitched to me as a platformer and fighting game, with ninja bunnies. Awesome, I thought, a fun indie game where I can run around as a bunny and do ninja stuff. And while yes, I did run around as an awesome ninja bunny and do ninja stuff -- climbing all over the place, kicking other bunnies in the face, throwing daggers, and swinging swords -- what I didn't expect out of Wolfire Games' action-adventure was a heartfelt story about loss, revenge, and what a soldier comes home to after a horrendous war.
Before I begin in earnest, I highly recommend 1) you get this game, and 2) you play its predecessor, Lugaru's, campaign before the longer Overgrowth campaign. The Lugaru campaign is shorter, and admittedly slightly less polished, but it gives some great story beats and background on Turner, the main rabbit for both campaigns. I made the mistake of playing Lugaru second, and I feel the Overgrowth campaign would have been that much better with some background.
Overgrowth's story focuses on Turner, a rabbit who just wants to live his life after coming home from a terrible bunny war (don't laugh!) and losing his family. Being a fighter and one of the strongest rabbits in the world means that Turner will never find the peace he says he wants. One of the central questions in Overgrowth's campaign is whether or not Turner actually wants peace or if he's actually enjoying all the ninja ass-kicking he's doing throughout the story. Turner makes attempts to reason with people other animals, but talking never seems to work, and he has to resort to fists, weapons, and super-strong bunny legs to defeat his enemies.
The story is compelling enough that I kept playing through the missions despite myself, and the missions themselves are short enough that you don't notice the time slipping away. They're also short enough that even a gamer dad like me can slip in some ass-kicking before having to rush off to put out a fire (usually not literally). The downside to these small, bite-size missions is that they tend to become formulaic: go here, fight some rabbits or rats or dogs, and once you kill or knock out the last one, music plays, and the mission ends. You get a cutscene with dialogue, and the next mission loads. The fight sequences are broken up by fun, tough platforming missions, but even those get repetitive after a while.
Turner consistently feels like he's floating when trying to jump around, and while it feels pretty amazing to be able to jump as high as he does, the hang time he has while he's up there becomes a little ponderous when you're trying to reach a certain ledge for the fifth time. Collision detection is sometimes off, and I kept slipping off ledges I should have been able to stand on or mantle up to. Other than those two gripes, though, platforming was really fun -- moreso than in some other games in recent memory.
Combat in Overgrowth is pretty interesting. I can see where a more patient and adept player would excel at using the knives, swords, rapiers, and spears that Overgrowth has to offer, but I always seemed to lean back on Turner's jump + kick move that knocked enemies senseless and threw me out and away, ready to reset for another jump + kick until my opponent was down for good. This combo was so good, in fact, that I only had to switch up my tactics once, against a cat with a rapier who killed me a couple dozen times in a row. The only frustration (aside from that damn cat) that I had was that getting knocked down is very nearly a restart-worthy offense. If there was more than one opponent in the fight, getting knocked down in Overgrowth was like getting stunlocked in a fighting game.
Overgrowth also has a thriving Steam Workshop community, with players making all sorts of fun maps to play around in, from giant arenas to Mirror's Edge-style parkour cityscapes. If the story content doesn't sell you on the game, the Workshop content might.
Overall, Overgrowth was a fun experience, with fun platforming, dizzyingly high jumps, and pretty good combat. The story hooked me from the start, and the gameplay sold me the rest of the way.