The Invisible Hours by Tequila Works is a murder mystery that makes great use of virtual reality to delivery its story in a unique way. It’s available now for Playstation VR, which is the platform we tested the game on.
I have to admit that I was a big fan of Tequila Works’ first project, Deadlight. Their use of classic 2D gameplay that resembled Flashback, combined with a great sense of post-apocalyptic atmosphere, made for a memorable experience. I had to wait a long time for anything new to come from Tequila Works, but after playing Rime I was now able to play The Invisible Hours, their first foray in virtual reality.
The Invisible Hours is wonderfully creative from a gameplay and narrative point of view, although it’s light on gameplay and heavy on narrative. Perhaps best described as a virtual reality version of a crime mystery, it’s like being inside an Agatha Christie novel and having the power to direct the movie they’re making out of it. You don’t play as a detective with an active role inside the game, but rather as an onlooker who tries to figure out what happened.
Speaking of detectives, in The Invisible Hours you’ll quickly meet a Swedish detective who arrives at an old mansion in which famous inventor Nikola Tesla was murdered. You’ll have the ability to follow and observe many other characters over the course of the story as well, including some fictional ones as well as real life characters like Thomas Edison. Moving around the mansion (as an invisible entity), you can only observe one character at a time, so you’re quickly making choices based on your gut feeling about where you might uncover clues to the mystery.
Obviously, this means you miss out on other events, and you’ll realize that you had wanted to follow a different character instead. This is why The Invisible Hours requires several playthroughs to get down to the heart of the mystery and decipher who the culprit is. Because everything takes place after the murder, this isn’t a case of watching someone commit the murder itself, but always relies in piecing together the clues and information you gather.
Of course an experience like this relies heavily on the quality of its writing and the game’s ability to steer you into certain directions and keep you guessing. Just when you think you’ve figured it out, your third playthrough might provide completely different insights. Playing though the entire story (no matter the perspective you choose) takes about an hour and half each time, but if you’re just looking for that one piece of missing information you can fast forward through a lot of it as well.
While I could see an experience like this working without VR, the headset does make for a better experience – especially when combined with a good headset. Scurrying around the house trying to find that one clue that eludes you feels much better in VR, and you might hear elements of a crucial conversation that’s taking place just down the hallway. Rather than being disconnected from a story that you’re, in a way, passively observing, VR puts you right in the middle of things.
It might not feature a lot of traditional gameplay, and some will shy away from the game because of that, but this is a narrative experience unlike anything I’ve played thus far. The Invisible Hours redefines what it can mean to tell a story in a virtual reality environment and should be enjoyed by anyone who owns a Playstation VR headset and enjoys a good mystery. The price tag’s a bit high, but that tends to be the norm for VR projects these days. If that’s a stumbling block for you, don’t hesitate to grab it the minute it goes on sale – it’s an experience worth playing through, several times over.