This is not a game. This is not a Movie. This is a piece of immersive theatre with many tangled threads. Explore the story to untangle the truth. But remember: “Truth is a matter of perspective”.
The Invisible Hours is the latest game from Tequila Works which just so happens to be perfect for me as I love murder mysteries. I’ve seen the Mouse Trap numerous times, own all seasons of Poirot on Blu-ray and I’ve even taken part in a live ‘Whodunit’ style evening meal many years ago. As soon as I read about this game, I knew I had to play it – this was actually the sole reason I bought a PSVR.
The story feels like it came right out of a popular murder mystery show. You discover a body, are introduced to all of the characters, uncover everyone’s motive and alibis, and then you must work out who the killer is before they strike again. You have professions such as a detective, blind butler and convict, among others. As an invisible entity/fly on the wall, you choose who you wish to observe throughout the 90-minute event to unravel who the murderer was and what is happening behind closed doors within the Mansion.
Whilst playing in VR, I felt like I was there, using either the DS4 controller or the two Move controllers. You ‘teleport’ around, which I feel was the best choice for this game as games where you can move freely can make you a little dizzy after a while, and you can rotate 360 degrees on the spot whilst also move your head in all directions. There are a vast amount of objects and newspapers/letters to pick up and read – personally, I’ve not seen a more interactive story-based game this generation.
The game takes place on an island with quite a big garden and a mansion. The mansion has two floors, an attic and a basement with over 15 rooms to explore. You shouldn’t ever get lost though as you can easily view the map and instantly teleport to any room almost instantly. As you progress through the story, depending on what you have seen and found out, more rooms will become accessible.
You start out on the dock as Gustaf Gustav, the detective, arrives on the island. He has been summoned to the island by Nikola Tesla, the world-famous inventor. As you follow Gustaf you will encounter Flora White, Tesla’s ex-assistant, who has been refused entry into the mansion and forced to take shelter from the rain in a near-by bandstand style structure. Gustaf comforts the woman and accompanies her back to the mansion which is where they both discover Tesla’s recently deceased body laid out, in a pool of blood, upon the floor in the main hall.
The rest of the game/experience is now all up to you to do as you chose. If you want to follow one of the guests and watch the entire mystery unfold from their point of view, you can. Either manually teleport around using the controller, or select the character and you will ‘lock on’ with pre-set cinematic angles and positions as you watch their story unfold. Alternatively, you can wander around the island and mansion freely, watching the events that unfold at specific times in various locations.
The big thing here is that you can ‘only be in one place at a time’ – so if you are watching Gustaf in the dining hall as he interviews the guests, you won’t see what Flora is getting up to as she is sent off to investigate the ground floor rooms. This can be so much fun! In my first playthrough, I just followed Flora around and I made up theories on who killed X, where did the murder weapon come from and why was Tesla’s rival, Thomas Edison, present in the mansion. However, on my second playthrough, I decided to branch out and look around more and follow other people – this allowed me to fill in the blanks and discover the truth behind things that weren’t explained by viewing from one person’s perspective.
Having the chance to experience this from everyone’s perspective really breathes new life into an old classic setting. The writing and voice acting are great, everything comes together perfectly and starts to make more and more sense the more you play it.
One of the mechanics of the game is the ability to rewind, pause and fast-forward the story at will. This time-manipulation tool allows you to rewind conversations if you missed something. Alternatively, if you encounter an event that doesn’t make sense, you could rewind time to see the events that preceded it in order to get more of an understanding of the context and situation. This was both a hit and miss for me – it’s good because it allows you to experience more of the story in one playthrough, however, I would have preferred it if this didn’t unlock until after one or two playthroughs. The whole ‘you can only be in one place at a time’ aspect is great but irrelevant if you can just go back a few hours and be in another place at the same time.
The music is very subtle but fits in well and the sound effects are perfect in VR with the 3D audio via headphones. You can pinpoint where something is just by listening and everything from the rain smashing against the windows to the clocks ticking away in the hallway really immerse you into this virtual world.
Finally, we come to the elephant in the room – VR. Personally, do I feel this game ‘needs’ to be in VR? Maybe not. Do I think VR adds anything to the gameplay? Yes, I believe it helps the immersion and adds a great amount of depth to the gameplay. Do I think Tequila Games will patch out VR so that more people can experience it? Maybe (I’m hoping yes) – (*Update – The game can now be played in or out of VR and it’s also out on PC and Xbox*). Being there in VR with the ability to grab everything and get right up in the characters faces is a great experience and I am so happy the game has the ability to do all of this in VR. However, I imagine a lot of people would be very interested in the game, but may not own a PSVR headset – I believe having the ability to choose if you want to use PSVR or not would be a great option and would really benefit the game.
I would also love for Tequila Works to try and seek permission/collaborate with Microïds to develop an actual Poirot licenced mystery (as I think they own the video game rights) in this multi-layered style. For example, I would love to see the Murder on the Orient Express from the eyes of all the passengers, or even the Evil Under the Sun – both of which would be perfect with inter-connecting stories in both VR and non-VR.
If you have a PSVR and are wondering what game to buy which won’t make you queasy and doesn’t involve platforming or shooting things then this is for you! The story is great, a well-known one but with twists and turns which you don’t expect that will keep you entertained for hours. Tequila Works had me believing I was inside a murder mystery, fully immersed more than any game, TV show or movie ever has. The 90-minute story is told over seven points of view, imagine what could be achieved with the same love and attention if they went bigger, a longer story with more cast – you would be lost in VR for days!
I find this game very easy to recommend to people of all VR experience as it’s nice and slow, easy to pick up and as deep as you want it to be.
The Invisible Hours
- - Great story and very well written. Could have easily become flawed due to the seven stories, but instead, it worked out great
- - The sound effects, voice acting and music really immerses you in the virtual world
- - The story is always the same, but the journey you take is different every time you jump in for a new playthrough
- - You will find yourself wanting to dive in ‘just one more time’ every time you reach one of the endings
- - PSVR is an amazing feature, but it’s a shame you can’t also play it without
- - I feel the time manipulation features should have been locked on your first playthrough to make it more critical that you use your time well