Fuel Overdose, developed by i-Friqiya, is one of those games that exists, but awareness of said existence only happens to those either finely tuned into the industry or prone to chance encounters with the bizarre. If you’re the kind of person that enjoyed browsing the “Special Interest” shelves at Hollywood Videos, Fuel Overdose is a game that will probably catch your eye, for better or worse. It’s a game that strives to defy categorization, but ultimately stumbles in its ambitions. A chaotic amalgamation of styles, mechanics and weird storytelling, what you discover in this game may not be “good,” but it is undoubtedly fascinating.
At its core, Fuel Overdose is an isometric combat racer. Think Death Rally or Rock ‘n’ Roll Racing. Your car controls not unlike a character from an old third-person PlayStation game, and you have a variety of weapons with which to make things difficult for your opponents. Each character has access to a certain number of machine gun bullets, homing missiles and mines (depending on how you allocate your pre-race budget).
Each character also has limited use of a grappling hook, which is frustrating and game-changing at the same time. The grappling hook can latch onto specific points on certain turns, allowing you to hit corners faster and even come out with a boost if you don’t screw it up. You can also snag other cars, and either launch yourself past them or electrify your car, effectively turning yourself into an explosive weapon on contact. Bombs also litter the track, and can be detonated by any player as long as they are within sight.
In addition to guns, missiles, mines, bombs, and grappling hooks, players also have super and ultra moves it their disposal. Yes, combat racing isn’t enough; Fuel Overdose wants to be Street Fighter as well. Various occurrences throughout a race will build your meter, and each character has unique inputs utilizing the right analog stick that make all of the other weapons in the game look like pea shooters. Fuel Overdose is a busy game!
Therein lies its problem. The game pretty much uses the entire controller, and while such depth is exciting at first, Fuel Overdose constantly rides the line between having options and being detrimentally convoluted. The game having such a obviously low budget doesn’t help either; sure, the lack of emphasis on presentation is expected and okay, but the game also suffers mechanically from a lack of polish.
The camera is zoomed in far too closely to be able to react to a lot of sudden turns, and cars slide around on the track regardless of your handling stats. A good way to realize how lackadaisical the actual racing mechanics are is to hop onto multiplayer (if you can find anyone to play with) and try the driving-only mode; as the name suggests, it strips all cars and tracks of weaponry, and the race turns into even more of a chaotic mess without them. That’s not a good sign. A lot of the weapons have odd ranges or just feel off in general, making catching up to the computer on harder races more difficult than it should be.
Fuel Overdose‘s presentation is an aesthetic fusion of crazy ’90s anime, western art and comically-bizarre post-apocalyptic fiction. Also, visual novels. (Like I said, it’s a busy game.) The set-up of the Fuel Overdose universe is this: a terrible disease brought mankind to the brink. A cure was developed, but unfortunately the cure has highly addictive properties. The world being the resource-less dystopian wasteland it is, said highly addictive cure is quite the commodity. I guess in everyone’s drug-addled frenzy, further refinement of the cure was deemed unnecessary.
As a result, an elaborate and highly lethal racing tournament was created, and each region sends one representative to battle it out for more drugs. Drugs for everyone, hooray! Fuel Overdose has a positive message to spread that we could all stand to learn from. Anyway, the story plays out not unlike a visual novel, with tons of awkwardly-translated dialogue and and overarching story that involves the whole cast and, well, is mostly nonsense. The visual-novel style presentation is more off-putting than anything else, but like everything else in Fuel Overdose, is so odd that you don’t want to stop playing it (at least for a little while).
Fuel Overdose is a crazy, ambitious game that I will probably always hold a certain degree of respect for. Unfortunately, it reaches a little too far outside of the box for its capabilities, and falls short of being something special. Instead it will forever be the game that, if discovered, will inspire little more of a reaction than “what the heck is this?”
Pros: A uniquely-bizarre mashup of many things you wouldn’t expect to see together
Cons: Glaring mechanical flaws get in the way at times, empty multiplayer