Developer: Tequila Works
Format(s): Playstation VR (Reviewed), HTC Vive
I love a good old-fashioned murder mystery. It’s why I find myself glued to the TV on weekday afternoons re-watching classics like Murder She Wrote or old Agatha Christie adaptations, and why I also find myself eagerly anticipating the upcoming theatrical release of Murder on the Orient Express. There’s just something about the ‘whodunnit’ premise that resonates with me and whilst my own murder-solving antics are typically reserved for the Cluedo board, every time a new video game comes along offering a murder-solving experience I’ll instantly find myself drawn to playing it.
Enter The Invisible Hours – the latest release from Tequila Works, creators of the brilliant RiME and the even better (in my opinion) The Sexy Brutale. The Invisible Hours is a virtual reality murder mystery that offers the unique premise of playing out almost like a theatrical performance. This means you’re not directly playing as a role as part of the show though, but instead watching events unfold from in front of the metaphorical stage. Whilst it might not sound too invigorating as a gameplay experience, it’s actually one of the most unique and charming murder mysteries I’ve had the chance to witness across any format.
In The Invisible Hours you’ll be watching a murder mystery unfold, with Nikola Tesla being murdered and a wide selection of potential culprits found around him. It’s a unique set up that sees you exploring the entirety of his estate and going wherever you like – you don’t play the role of a specific character per se, but instead take on the role of what is essentially a member of the audience.
You do have the freedom to watch it how you please though with everything taking place over a fixed timeline. Everyone plays their role and gets on with their own thing, so if you’re not looking in the right place at the right time you might miss out on some important detail. It’s like Night Trap in a way, but… well… better.
One of The Invisible Hours’ more unique features is your ability to rewind, fast forward, and pause time, so you can always see what’s going on or take a closer look at something you might’ve missed out on. A lot of the charm of the game comes in the fact that you’ve got full control over proceedings and where you want to be; at times you know you’ll have to miss something else whilst keeping an eye on someone else, but all it takes is quick rewind to pick up the pieces of anything you haven’t seen. Alternatively, it allows you to zip through scenes you’ve already witnessed, which is handy when replaying through some parts of the game.
Shifting across time becomes quite enthralling, especially with all of the plot twists and mysteries that The Invisible Hours is home to. What’s impressive is that you won’t pick up on some of these secrets until you start flicking through time; you might find out a character did something bad later on in the game for example, but if you rewind through events and keep a close eye on them you’ll realise that the tell-tale signs were there all along. It’s something budding detectives will appreciate and there’ll certainly be plenty of ‘a-ha’ moments to be found as you sift through time and re-tread past events – just be ready to have to play through the game multiple times if you want to see everything that it has to offer.
All of the characters you encounter have their own unique timeline and series of events, so keeping a close eye on what they’re up to is vital. It might be a case of catching them discussing something suspicious with another character, being in a place they’re not meant to be, or even muttering something to themselves; there’s so much to see that’s easy to miss if you’re not aware of everybody’s whereabouts.
Everyone is unique though and can be anywhere at any given time – you’ve got a massive house to explore with an even larger grounds surrounding it, so there really are a lot of places you need to keep a look out on. Each character is incredibly well written and has their own little tale to tell though, so it’s worth playing through the game a few times just to see how exactly they play out; whilst the main focus of The Invisible Hours is on Tesla’s murder, each of the characters have their own starring role too, as well as a motive for murder…
Whilst The Invisible Hours is great to play in virtual reality, it probably isn’t a compulsory feature and could’ve easily been done on a normal screen. Don’t get me wrong, there was an undeniable satisfaction to getting in everyone’s face and seeing their reactions to events (which could often be telling) or examining suspicious items up close, but it didn’t seem like a game that could ONLY be done in VR. I enjoyed playing it in Playstation VR though and it did add to the cinematic feel of the experience, but it doesn’t do anything revolutionary.
One stumbling point of The Invisible Hours comes in its price point, with the experience costing £34.99 for UK gamers. That’s quite a lot to pay, even if the game as a whole is packed with things to see. There are plenty of virtual reality titles that are priced a lot lower than that right now, and whilst I think the Invisible Hours could certainly justify a higher price-point than most, I think the asking price here is a little too steep. It might be enough to force some gamers to give it a miss, which is a massive shame.
Virtual reality has offered plenty of charming and unique experiences thanks to its immersive features, and The Invisible Hours is the latest one to add to the bunch thanks to its fantastic storytelling and intriguing time-shifting mechanics. There’s so much going on at any given time in the game, but you’re always able to witness it all whether through clever detective work or a quick turn-back on the clocks. It constantly surprises too, with shock revelations aplenty during the ninety-minute runtime of the experience – you might have to go through it all plenty of times if you want to witness them all though, but you won’t mind since it’s so enjoyable to play anyway.
The only real drawbacks of the experience are the high price and the fact that the VR integration doesn’t always feel like a necessity, but in all I think that The Invisible Hours is a charming little murder mystery than any wannabe sleuth will want to check out.