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Overclocking Attack

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"I will build machines which simply fail when overloaded, rather than wipe out all nearby henchmen in an explosion or worse yet set off a chain reaction. I will do this by using devices known as 'surge protectors'."

A popular strategy to destroy the Big Bad's big doomsday device is to overwork it until it blows up. Overclocking any Applied Phlebotinum, especially the evil kind, won't just shut it down but will cause it to explode beyond repair. But in this case, the "explosive" part of Explosive Overclocking is not the risk but the goal. Then your job is done, since, of course, there are No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup.

A common way to achieve this seems to be to hit every button and pull every lever within reach as fast as you can.

The idea could be connected to how a computer will "crash" (that is to say, shut down or freeze) if you try to run too many applications at once. Of course, in the real world, a computer crash is very different from a car crash, and a computer - or any machine, really - is very unlikely to explode when it crashes. A closer analogy might be how a fuse will blow from using too much electricity on one circuit, but we have precautions to take for that in the real world. You'd think the Big Bad would be smart enough to take the same precautions for his weapons, but then destroying them wouldn't look half as cool.

Sometimes given a Hand Wave involving some Technobabble about "overriding the safety protocols" (which will usually entail typing the word 'override' into a nearby console, and if that doesn't work, typing it harder).

The opposite of Tim Taylor Technology. Goes hand-in-hand with Destruction Equals Off-Switch. Compare Logic Bomb and Going to Give It More Energy. Compare and contrast Pent-Up Power Peril when the lack of usage creates similar results. Next step up from Self-Destruct Mechanism.

Not to be confused with Overcranking an Attack Shot, a.k.a. "Snyder-vision".

Somewhat similar to real life "overclocking," which increases processing speed at the cost of lifespan (although too much overclocking can achieve the same result as this trope).


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ayakashi Triangle: Normally, an ayakashi medium's control of Life Energy promotes growth and healing, but Shadow Mei is able to twist it into making it go out of control and destroy living bodies. When used on some plants, they grow wildly and then disintegrate seconds later. When hit on the hand, Matoi is able to use Ki Manipulation to keep it from spreading, but it still paralyzes her arm. Mei says it would have instantly mummified a regular person.
  • Battle Programmer Shirase's first arc (Episode 3) has Shirase destroying the King of America's computer through using a mobile phone to "double compile" the code, causing his computer to overheat and explode.
  • Dragon Ball Z
    • One Non-Serial Movie has a giant metallic energy-absorbing star as the evil Applied Phlebotinum device. Goku and Vegeta defeat this by overloading it with their own Super Saiyan energy, which causes it to explode in a chain reaction.
    • Goku defeats the light-eating monster Yakon by feeding him with energy until he explodes. Goku is far stronger than his opponent, and can output more energy than Yakon can handle—Goku could have defeated him using more conventional methods if he desired; he was partly toying with his enemy.
  • In the second season of the anime adaptation of A Certain Scientific Railgun, protagonist Misaka Mikoto uses her Electromaster power (basically the ability to generate and control electricity freely) to remotely destroy several laboratories from a phone booth using the phone lines by hacking into their networks with her power, then wiping all data and critically overloading all the equipment, blowing them up and confusing the scientists as to why the hell all their stuff started randomly exploding.
  • F-Zero: Black Shadow's doomsday device is overloaded by driving around it in circles. The resulting explosion can be seen from a view of the galaxy.
  • Gundam 00: A Wakening of the Trailblazer: Andrei Smirnov, along with almost every other GN-X IV pilot in the process of assimilation does this (using TransAm) as a last ditch attempt to destroy an ELS battleship thats heading to earth.
  • Prétear: The huge evil tree in the anime disintegrates when Himeno feeds it a large amount of Life Energy. It's her own Life Energy, and she dies afterwards — but this is what the True Love's Kiss is for.
  • Rurouni Kenshin features a biological version of this being inflicted on a minor villain. He had strength, speed, and size—but as Kenshin kept dodging and tricking him into going faster, he passed the limit of what his joints could handle and broke his own leg.
  • In Shin Mazinger, Count Brocken attempts to do this with Energer-Z by overloading its Photon Power Core. It begins shooting out powerful beams of Photon Energy until Mazinger-Z uses the God Scrander's Big Bang Punch attack to destroy it.
  • In Devil & Devil, Ios tries to off a time-sucking tentacled monster this way, by letting it gorge on as much time as it likes, as Ios has tons of it to spare, being an angel. It doesn't work as well as he expected, though, and merely damages the monster instead of destroying it outright.

    Comic Books 
  • Used by the Justice League to defeat four-fifths of the Crime Syndicate (their evil twins) in their first battle; Flash gives Johnny Quick extra speed so that he loses control, Wonder Woman lets Superwoman take her lasso knowing her foe can't control it, Green Lantern feeds so much energy into Power Ring's own ring that he can't use it properly, and Superman tricks Ultraman into coming in contact with a vast meteor of kryptonite (Ultraman unaware that Superman is ''weakened'' by kryptonite rather than gaining powers from it) which gives him so many new powers he can't use any of them.
  • In the X-Men Civil War storyline: While Mind Controlled, Cyclops hits Bishop with more energy than he can actually absorb. Bishop is able to vent it in time, with enough interest to blow the limb off a Sentinel. They later (when Cyclops is no longer mind controlled) use the combination intentionally to break down a bunker door before it explodes.

    Card Games 
  • In Doomtown, Hot-Loaded Rounds lets you boost a weapon bonus for one round of a shootout, after which the weapon is destroyed. But the destruction is tied to comparing poker hands, so if you win the shootout before it gets that far, then you get to keep the weapon. Particularly obnoxious with a Shotgun.

    Fan Works 
  • A sidestory of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines has a trainer named Sho and his Mega Manectric fighting Gym Leader Volkner and his Electivire. Electivire's ability is Motor Drive, which enables it to absorb electric attacks to boost its speed. However, this ability has a limit of how much energy it can absorb at once, so Sho has Manectric keep up a Discharge attack longer than Electivire can stand, overloading him and forcing him to unleash the excess, depleting his own energy reserves in the process.
  • The fan-made game Pokémon Uranium has a final boss at a much higher level than you're likely to have, with powerful nuclear-type moves that can easily sweep an entire team. However, if you can provoke it into repeatedly using its fire-type move, "Overheat", it will substantially weaken itself (essentially burning itself out) and become a more manageable threat.

    Film- Animated 
  • In Kung Fu Panda 3, Po defeats Kai by firing his chi, which manifests into a dragon, at him. Kai is at first pleased, but soon realizes that the chi is too much for him to handle and promptly explodes.

    Film- Live Action 
  • Dr. No: James Bond overheats a nuclear power plant so it blows up and ruins the Big Bad's plan. It seemingly doesn't matter that it would cause serious environmental damage. It is James Bond, after all.
  • This is what the Hulk does to the Absorbing Man (natch) in Ang Lee's 2003 Hulk movie. Ew.
  • In Iron Man, Tony instructs Pepper to overload an Arc Reactor by "opening all the circuits and overriding the safety protocols". This remarkably simple exercise results in a massive electrical arc that shoots up to the sky.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Are You Afraid of the Dark?: In "The Tale of the Virtual Pets," one girl tries to destroy the invading aliens' computer before they can upload her friends to their spaceship by running too many applications at once. It almost works, but the computer magically reboots.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Sontaran Stratagem" the Doctor confuses a Sat Nav that wants to kill him with a Logic Bomb and it explodes... in a fairly small-scale and unimpressive way to which the Doctor responds disappointedly "Is that it?"
    • In "The Mind Robber", a computer was destroyed by people hitting lots of buttons and giving it too much to do at once. Well, either the computer was destroyed, or it was unable to perform various important functions that stopped it from being destroyed.
    • In "The Invasion", Zoe instructs a bureaucratic computer to "Real sum positive, delete square... print out Y to the minus variable X one", then watches gleefully as it explodes.
    • Finally, in "Family of Blood" the Doctor disables the Family's ship by "accidentally" falling against the various switches in a corridor, causing the ship's systems to overload.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: Kirk made a career out of this.
    • Also, as nearly done in "The Menagerie", hand phasers can be set to overload and cause a huge explosion. This is a deliberate feature.
    • In the prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise, the crew installs "Phase Cannons" (read: clumsily named proto-phasers) when they are beset with an enigmatic and superior alien attacker. In testing, a glitch in the system caused the phase cannons to overload, obliterating a mountain used as a test target. When the standard settings of the phase cannons don't work against the alien ship, Archer orders Malcolm to deliberately overload them again and the phase cannons finally give the aliens something to worry about.
  • In Smallville, Bizarro is killed by Clark this way. He gives Bizarro a chunk of Blue Kryptonite. Just as Blue Kryptonite nulls Clark's powers, it overloads Bizarro's powers, causing him to explode.
  • In Andromeda, the High Guard's Force Lances can be set to overload and used as a grenade. This is a built-in feature.
  • As seen on MythBusters, you can turn a hot water tank into an explosive house-demolishing missile by disabling the safety features and then pumping up the pressure, akin to a massive Alka-Selter Rocket.

  • In the Skylanders book series Mask of Power, the final book has Kaos finish building the titular doomsday mask, only to be defeated when the skylanders tricks his ego into trying to use all of their powers at the same time, something that should never be attempted, mask of power or no mask of power. Kaos attempts this challenge, and the resulting explosion destroys the mask and immobilises Kaos.
  • In the Worlds of Power book about Blaster Master, the heroes stop the Doomsday Device by frantically pressing random buttons on it until it's overloaded and shuts down.

    Video Games 
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: In the Shivering Isles expansion, the obelisks that summon the minions of the Big Bad can be powered up by inserting the crystal hearts of said minions. The only way to destroy an obelisk and prevent more minions from being summoned is to overload it by inserting several hearts in succession. It is something of a subversion, as the Obelisks don't blow up when overloading — they simply turn off. Looks like someone remembered the surge protectors.
  • In Advance Wars: Dark Conflict/Days of Ruin, you win the last mission in the campaign by destroying five laser cannons attached to a laboratory, causing the whole thing to overload and destroy itself, killing the Big Bad in the process.
  • During the climax of Resident Evil 5, the heroes discover that the source of Big Bad Wesker's insane powers is a virus. They also discover that the virus is unstable and must be injected regularly in precise doses, so their grand plan to defeat him amounts to overclocking him by injecting him with copious amounts of it. It doesn't do anything but make him angry. It also hideously disfigures him. If he somehow survived, the next time we see him he'll be a crispy mass of tentacles with Cool Shades.
  • An attack similar to the above example can be performed in Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura with a Fortifier chemical, which temporarily increases your damage resistance, but the withdrawal takes away a chunk of your health, and overdose cancels the positive effect and causes immediate withdrawal. You can make lots of it and inject several into enemies during a fight, causing significant damage each time. Note: do not give this to your followers or they will attack you.
  • Aera in Vega Strike use Photon Emission on Shield Collapse warheads. That's right, they weaponized "shield flash on hit" effect — a Photon autocannon shell or Photonswarm rocket is capped with an overloaded shield emitter, which fails when runs into anything, delivering both massive damage of a disruptor (shield like weapon) and a shield-piercing laser flash at point blank. Each shot consumes energy needed to charge the warhead and deteriorates with range, but less than disruptors, and it's still more energy-efficient than lasers.
  • The Overload and Sabotage talents in the Mass Effect series, the former downs shields and damages synthetics while the latter overheats weapons and burns the wielder.
    • In one of the sidequests of the first game, a sentient computer tries detonate itself and kill Shepard in the process. When Shepard points out that there's no way the computer could have smuggled explosives onto the Citadel's Presidium, it replies that its components will approximate a self destruct when stressed.
  • Ring Runner: Flight of the Sages features weapons can add to the target's energy or heat pools, eventually resulting in them overloading or overheating. Overload weapons can be used by casters, while overheat weapons can be used by fighters.
  • Destiny 2 's Shadowkeep expansion comes with new mods, some specifically designed to deal with Champion-tier enemies. Among them are Overload Rounds, which work best on Overload champions, which are very aggressive and can't be stopped with normal fire. Firing on the target with the right mod installed will eventually shoot an Overload shot, which causes the Champion to become temporarily stunned and left wide-open to attacks from you or friendlies.
  • In Grim Dawn, Occultists have a spell called "Bloody Pox," which plagues an enemy mob. Its upgrade "Fevered Rage" doubles its damage but buffs attack damage and speed.

  • Bob and George: George deduces that his attacks are not just going away and goes for the overload
  • Girl Genius: When Agatha's Ray Gun starts malfunctioning, she intentionally overclocks it so that she can use it to blow up a bridge.
    • Also, a rare human example. Zola imbibes some of Violetta's Moveit 11, making her extremely fast and strong. This, in addition to her considerable martial art skills, makes her completely unstoppable. Violetta's solution? Inject Zola with even more Moveit 11, so that her body can't handle it and melts down. Unfortunately for our protagonists, Zola managed to keep herself long enough to still wreak some damage. She's badly beaten by Tarvek, but she ends up in a hospital and is saved before Violetta's plan works.
  • Second Empire; Anzollo, knowing the Millennium Thargon has no hope of outrunning the attacking Dalek saucers, instead blows the gravity lenses of the Thargon to release a crippling gravity wave, which succeeds in tearing apart many of his pursuers.

    Western Animation 
  • Used by the Big Bad against the hero in Ben 10: Vilgax manages to remove the Omnitrix with a simple overloaded pulse of energy bigger than its feedback pulse.
  • In Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers episode "Pied Piper Power Play" the team destroys Nimnul's rodent-powered generator by convincing the mice to constantly run the treadmills. The twist is: the explosion would kill them all, as well as all the Nimnul's hostages, so they have to stop it afterwards.
  • The pilot for Darkwing Duck does this - to destroy the Waddlemeyer Ramrod, a device that "makes things float and stuff", the titular hero starts randomly pushing buttons, causing it to start firing randomly and finally explode.
  • The standard MO of Ron Stoppable from Kim Possible.
    Ron: This is a precision instrument, very complicated. Better mess with everything.
  • Static Shock: Gear stops Brainiac, the living computer brain that has invaded the Justice League's Watch Tower, by linking his computer/robot to it and downloading the same song billions of times — "just like when my computer crashes when I try to do too many things at once." It only appears to work, though.
  • Teen Titans: In the episode "Wavelength," Cyborg destroys Brother Blood's underground base by "boost[ing] the wavelength in the transmission matrix, triggering a meltdown in the amplification system." Which is funny, because increasing a wavelength will result in a loss of energy, instead of an increase.
    • Also, in the special episode "The Lost Episode," Beast Boy taunts the guitar-shredding villain Punk Rocket into overloading his guitar amps by turning the volume up to ten.
  • Wallace & Gromit: In "A Close Shave", Shaun the Sheep tries to shut down the Conveyor Belt o' Doom by randomly flicking a panel of switches. It doesn't work, but it does turn on a huge neon advertising sign outside so Gromit realizes where they are and flies to the rescue.
  • In A Pup Named Scooby-Doo episode title "The Computer Walks Among Us", Velma use this strategy to deal with her robot, the Dinkley 2000, which follows every command until it gone crazy. The robot catches the gang off guard and grabs Freddie, Daphne, and Shaggy, and devours them, before moving in on Velma. After asking Scooby something, she gets an idea to stop the robot. She and Scooby ask the robot to do several chores at once until it overloads. Freddie, Daphne, and Shaggy then emerge from the robot unharmed. Velma explains that Scooby reminded her that the robot was designed to follow every command.

    Real Life