Imagine a fast-paced brawler where players can chop and change the rules mid game – switching the objective from chaotic deathmatch to a more strategic king of the hill, or switching up the rules and mechanics to directly influence everyone's abilities and sabotage your enemies. Sounds pretty great to us, and with the distinct lack of couch multiplayer titles on the Xbox One, there's a real opportunity for Dlala's hectic new title to fill that gap and provide hours of multiplayer madness both on and offline. Unfortunately, even though the ideas behind Overruled! are sound, the experience itself is extremely lacking, sure to leave players more deflated than entertained.
The premise is simple: You play on a single screen which is littered with platforms to bounce around on and cards to collect. Each card has the ability to change the rules of play or switch out the win conditions of the level. Game modes include Deathmatch, King of the Hill, Race (in which players must collect flags in sequence as they appear), Coin Grab (in which players race to collect as many floating coins as possible), Headhunter, and more. Whichever mode you are currently playing in, the objective is to gain as many points as possible before the timer runs out. In multiplayer, this can mean activating cards to sabotage your enemies; in single player, you'll be trying to beat a points minimum for each stage.
Upon loading the game, you'll be greeted by some very colourful, cartoony artwork prior to entering the world's shortest menu. On offer here is a single player Challenge Mode and Overruled!'s main selling point – Multiplayer. Single player consists of 54 short challenges, which will give you an opportunity to get to grips with the different cards that are available and start formulating plans on how you will use their nefarious new skills in multiplayer. Each group of six challenges is played with a different character out of the nine available, and each challenge is ranked so competitive folks may want to go back and show their skill by unlocking the gold trophy for all stages. It's just as likely, though, that you won't care enough to bother since the levels are extremely short and, ironically, not very challenging at all, as the whole thing can easily be completed within a couple of hours.
This kind of title isn't made for single player, though; it's all about getting together for multiplayer with your friends and engaging in 'friendly banter' over a quick match on Xbox Live or in your living room. Scratch that, it'll have to be in your living room as we were unable to find a single online game in the week that we played this game for review. It doesn't seem to make a difference if you try to join an online game alone, in a party, or together from a single console; it simply does not seem possible to get a lobby going for this game. This would be normal if the game was older, as it's only a small title, but it would appear that even this close to launch, no one is playing Overruled!.
Local multiplayer offers an impressive array of customisation options, with players able to set the rules to tweak spawn times, match length, and various other factors. The lobby can also be customised to dictate which cards will and won't be included in the potential player pick-ups, which will give gamers the opportunity to play Overruled! their way to optimise the fun. This is a benefit, as playing with the base rules switched on turns the multiplayer into a chaotic mess at times as four players play cards at random, swapping and changing rules several times a second. It's frantic, but as no rule is in play for very long, the use of cards almost seems irrelevant.
The characters are voiced by YouTube celebrities but the audio sounds like it was recorded on casette, buried in a time capsule, and then transferred to a sound file by playing the tape into an built-in mic on someone's laptop. The volume levels are all over the place and the stock phrases are extremely limited and grate on the nerves almost immediately. There's an extremely limited soundtrack as well, which means that it's best to stick the game on mute and put some music on in the background.
The controls aren't quite responsive enough to cope with the fast-paced gameplay, and we experienced slowdown on more than one occasion when playing locally with only two players. That's not acceptable for a game that is designed for four players and is simply tiny sprites on a static background. The characters don't really fit in with the art style of the rest of the game either; they feel strange and out of place against the cartoon backgrounds and are extremely small on the screen during gameplay. All characters are unlocked from the start of the game, which seems a strange decision as there was an opportunity to make them unlockable in the single player – one has to wonder if this was the intention initially and Dlala realised that no one would get that far before getting bored.
The premise behind Overruled! is strong, but unfortunately the implementation is so poor that the best thing we have to say about the game is that it has nice background art. The sound sways between mildly irritating and downright awful, and the choice of character will hinge on which terribly-recorded mumbling least makes you want to write a personal letter of complaint to the voice actor. Multiplayer is fun for a short while but limited to couch co-op, as you'll struggle to find a match online. With lacklustre single player and not much else going on, Overruled! has very little to offer to make it appear like a decent value proposition.