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The Caligula Effect: Overdose

Game review by
David Chapman, Common Sense Media
The Caligula Effect: Overdose Game Poster Image
Repetitive, bland look at complex emotional issues.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

The game has an unexpectedly deep focus on the emotional issues many people deal with, as well as the ways they cope with those issues and how doing so can lend them strength. That said, some issues discussed are shockingly dark, and not handled in any healthy manner.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main characters in the Go-Home Club understand that they're not in a real world and begin to come to terms with their emotional issues. The protagonist works to establish and build friendships with his or her fellow students, helping both out in the process. There's a story path, though, that allows the player to essentially betray his or her friends throughout the game.

Ease of Play

The gameplay's fairly complex and requires a lot of menu navigation for everything from dialogue options to skills and equipment to maintaining relationships with the 500+ students (and potential party members). Combat's turn-based, giving players time to plan their moves, which also show potential outcomes. Players not only choose actions and abilities, but also can adjust the timing of their execution for the best possible results.

Violence

Characters spend a lot of time fighting against possessed students and other enemy bosses. There’s no blood or gore in the combat, with defeated enemies collapsing and vanishing. But there are scenes of death, as well as implied incidents of abuse, suicide, and other forms of violence in flashbacks and dialogue.

Sex

Some female characters are presented in a provocative manner. There are also lines in dialogue and some of text message conversations between the player and other students. Other unique situations arise due to the fact that all of the characters are portrayed in Mobius as high school students, while some are much older (or occasionally younger) than they appear in the “real world.” Finally, there are some gender identity issues address in potential story arcs.

Language

Some characters frequently use profanity in dialogue and text messages, including “s--t,” “ass,” and “bitch.”

Consumerism

The game is an expanded remaster of the original PS Vita exclusive, The Caligula Effect. This version includes a higher resolution presentation, downloadable content (DLC) such as character costumes, and other brand-new features not found in the original.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some characters make passing remakes about alcohol in the game’s dialogue and text messages.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Caligula Effect: Overdose is a role-playing game available on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Windows-based PCs. The game's an enhanced remake of The Caligula Effect, which was originally an exclusive release for the PlayStation Vita. This new version includes enhanced visuals, all previously released downloadable content, and new story-based features. The plot’s primary focus involves people attempting to escape some emotional trauma and getting trapped in a virtual world as a result. This leads to a number of sensitive subjects as they uncover the secrets the NPCs are hiding, such as suicide, abuse, alienation, and other heavy mental and emotional situations. The game’s dialogue includes a fair amount of both profanity, (including "bitch" and "s--t") and sexual innuendo, as well as occasional references to alcohol. While there's a steady stream of violence in the combat portion of the game, it's not graphic in its depiction, and doesn't show any blood or gore.

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What's it about?

THE CALIGULA EFFECT: OVERDOSE is an updated remake of the original PlayStation Vita exclusive, The Caligula Effect. The game’s central focus is about emotional trauma, and the ways we cope with the pain it causes. After an encounter with a mysterious being called “μ” (“Mu”), you begin the first day of school as a second year student at Kishimai High School. But things take a disturbing turn as you learn nothing is what it seems. You quickly discover nothing around you is real. The entire city is a virtual creation, designed to offer people a life without pain, without anger, without sadness. It’s a fantasy, and you’re not alone in your realization of this. Together with the other students as a part of the “Go-Home Club”, your goal is defeat μ and her “Ostinato Musicians,” freeing yourself and your fellow students from this false paradise … and learning to cope with the personal turmoil that brought you here to start with.

Is it any good?

Escapism can be both a blessing and a curse, but this game attempts to bury its problems deep and pretend they don’t exist without dealing with serious topics in the best way. The Caligula Effect: Overdose has something oddly inspiring about learning to harness emotional pain to turn it from a weakness into a strength, but it’s also strange that the game’s story sometimes treats such heavy topics as death, abuse, bullying, and more with an almost cavalier attitude. In the story, the characters exist in this virtual world to escape the personal and emotional traumas they’ve suffered, but even after learning their secrets and facing what brought them to Mobius, these issues feel like they're just swept under the rug.

Even putting aside the psychological aspects of The Caligula Effect: Overdose, there are some difficult issues for the game to overcome. For starters, the game’s repetition is almost mind numbing. The entire adventure is set in an incomplete virtual city, with most events happening on the high school grounds. Most interactions are with students that, outside of the main cast, look and act like filler. You’re meant to build bonds with these characters, but they’ve got no real personality to bond with. In fact, the texting feature is just a series of pre-programmed and random questions, which never come together like any actual conversation. The game’s combat system does feel like something genuinely unique, with players choosing their party’s actions, adjusting the timing, and even seeing the potential outcome before locking everything in. It’s an interesting system with a lot of potential that it never quite lives up to, leading to fights that wind up feeling overly long and drawn out. It adds to the game’s overall feeling of repetition and monotony, making The Caligula Effect: Overdose an experience that will make you want to escape back to the real world as much as the rest of the “Go-Home Club”. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about addressing and coping with emotional issues. What are some ways parents can identify if their kids are dealing with emotional issues? What are some safe and positive ways that kids can address their mental health?

  • What are some good ways that kids can make new friends and build lasting relationships?

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