Developer Chasing Carrots has created a “this makes so much sense, why have these game mechanics not been used before” title with Pressure Overdrive, sequel to 2013’s Pressure. Using a twin-stick control scheme to make an action racer just makes a ton of sense but unfortunately, the overall package falls flat thanks to severe unbalancing.
Check out my stream of Pressure Overdrive to see this game in action for yourself:
Pressure Overdrive is essentially a modern day Spy Hunter in which the player drives vertically within a tunnel with the goal of killing as many bad guys as possible before reaching the finish line. The problem with Spy Hunter, a popular arcade game back in the early 80s (also ported to other systems), is that it had brutal difficulty mostly because the player can only shoot straight ahead. Lining up shots is difficult when enemies are also shooting directly straight as well. Pressure Overdrive fixes this problem by implementing a twin-sticker shooter mechanic: the right stick controls shooting and aiming while the left stick controls movement. This simplified control scheme works well and makes the concept pick-up-and-play easy. In a way, Pressure Overdrive is almost a shooter or bullet-hell.
The problem with this twin-stick racer stems from the unbalanced difficulty and the need to grind to succeed. Just a few stages in, the player will most likely die before reaching the finish line from having under powered offensive weaponry and lack of defensive capabilities. In addition to the twin-stick controls, the other main hook comes from the dozens of unlockable upgrades available to the player. However, unlocking anything takes a significant amount of gold, something that takes a frustratingly long time to earn. In fact, the results screen at the end of each stage essentially told me I failed and failed miserably as I was never able to destroy enough enemies, took too much damage, and did not finish the track fast enough. Until the player grinds for hours to earn worthwhile upgrades to make defeating enemies easier, the game literally tells the player they are a total failure after every stage. And after spending time to upgrade several features of my cart, the enhancements were not even that noticeable.
The pressure system, the final gimmick, is also tedious and annoying just like the upgrade system. In order to do anything, the player’s cart needs pressure. Want to shoot faster? Get pressure. Want to use that left trigger special ability? Better have enough pressure stored up. The player earns pressure by defeating enemies but in order to defeat enemies the player needs pressure. It is a vicious cycle that turns ugly quickly as the player can constantly feel underpowered and overwhelmed.
Although there are some clear problems with Pressure Overdrive, there is no questioning its personality. With a humorous cartoony visual aesthetic, the visual theme stands out; even the title screen makes a bold statement. Unfortunately, the gameplay repeats just like the visuals, enemies, and even soundtrack. By the third stage, the player will have seen and played almost everything the game has to offer. There is the occasional boss battle to break up the stage-by-stage action but chances are the player will be underpowered when encountered, resulting in another frustrating game over.
Even with a local two-player co-op option and dozens of upgrades to unlock, Pressure Overdrive winds up being a flat tire on the highway. It is a shame because the twin-stick mechanic is a great idea but the rest of the package has no staying power, plagued with balancing and pacing issues.
Remember: Geometry Wars
Not As Good As: Spy Hunter, the GBA version
Also Try: Super Sprint or R.C. ProAM