Long, long ago in the far gone year of 2013, a little studio by the name of Chasing Carrots published a genre bending hybrid of a game that mashed together twin stick shooters with on the rails racing and shmups known as Pressure. Now, in the future that is 2017, Chasing Carrots has re-released Pressure as Pressure Overdrive, now complete with updates and a few little extras that make the new title more of a ‘definitive edition’ than a complete reboot.
Pressure Overdrive is the story of young Morgan. Early one morning while preparing for his bath, Morgan discovers that the river has been drained to nothing more than dust by little robots. The robots are under the control of the villainous Count Soap II, who seeks to collect all of the water for his exuberant bath house in order to charge patrons an equally exuberant price for the privilege of bathing in his stolen water supply. Morgan joins up with the rag tag group, “La Resistance”, to track down Count Soap II and scrub out the nefarious bath house before construction is complete. To do this, Morgan must journey through 33 levels in his steam punk inspired, and pressure powered, buggy. During each level, players have a pressure and damage gauges visible in the top left corner of their HUD. The pressure gauge can refill on its own with time, by reaching a checkpoint for the level, or from destroying enemy vehicles. The hull damage gauge is not as forgiving, however, only repairing itself if certain buggy modifications are active. Should the hull’s damage gauge become empty, the player fails and must restart the level.
As part of La Resistance, Morgan has access to a garage where he can upgrade his trusty buggy before starting a new level. Each section, from the front hull to the base chassis itself, can be customized and upgraded in the garage providing the player has the coins to do so. There are several different upgrade options available for each category of the buggy, ranging from the mundane with the standard issue mini gun to the exotic flamethrower. Additionally, each upgrade can be improved up to three times (for a price, for course!) to increase its usefulness. But be warned, these upgrades require pressure to function, just like the buggy itself. There’s a lot of importance in choosing the right upgrades that offer a good pressure usage to damage output balance, as Morgan’s buggy can become incapacitated during a fight if the pressure gauge runs too low, leaving the player no choice but to sit still and wait for it to refill. This does leave the player as a sitting duck, as enemy robots and vehicles can still attack, and a rolling grinder at the bottom of the screen can catch up and hit the player, also.
Pressure Overdrive breaks down into three main segments, where players guide Morgan through ten different on the rails levels as a variety of enemies, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, race by and try to stop you before the level’s finish line. Enemy vehicles attacks range from small little round bullets to more damaging and nefarious large red cannon balls, with some even venturing into laser and toxic goo territory. The size of the enemy’s bullet on the screen is indicative of how much damage it may do. Often times, however, there is such a large amount of chaos on screen from various enemies and even Morgan’s own attacks that it can be difficult to accurately assess what attacks may or may not hit you. This does stay true to the classic shmup/bullet hell mechanics, but Pressure Overdrive dares to be a little more forgiving than others in the genre by allowing the player to revisit the garage and restarting the level where they died rather than taking a rogue-like approach.
Players that find themselves having completed Pressure Overdrive’s initial 33 level campaign on any of its three difficulty settings are rewarded by gaining access to Freeplay and Endless modes. Freeplay, as its name suggests, allows players to choose any of the campaign’s available levels to replay. While this is a nice option, it is worth noting that all previously purchased upgrades for the buggy are wiped out when starting a new level in Freeplay, and players must use any gold they had previously accrued to modify the buggy all over again before carrying on. Alternatively, Endless mode starts players at the very beginning of the game, with players reaching a checkpoint barn at what would have been the end of each level. Instead of being ejected to the game’s garage menu when reaching these barns, a slot machine pops up and awards players with random upgrades from which they may choose one before continuing. Endless mode does in fact end, doing so if the player’s buggy is destroyed. No progress is saved in endless mode, and failure resets you back to the start to try again.
Pressure Overdrive does offer a drop in/drop out multiplayer feature, but unfortunately this is limited to local cooperative play only. For the most part, Pressure Overdrive offers a smooth twin stick shmup experience, but it is important to note that during some later levels when there was a lot in the way of action and bullets flying around on the screen I did experience some stuttering. With any hope, this can be patched in the future. Despite that, Pressure Overdrive offers up an enjoyable, and highly replayable, shoot em up experience that is sure to have friends fighting for the top spots on the leader boards for some time to come.