The Invisible Hours is not your typical game. In fact, it’s not a game at all. You don’t win anything and there are no set goals. There are no checkpoints, health bars or powerups, just drama – and well done, too.
See, instead of being an active participant in a thrilling murder mystery, you’re an invisible observer constantly moving around the scenes. It’s a strange experience at first but one that’s easy to get accustomed to, or least it would be if it wasn’t for the awkward controls – more on that later.
The Invisible Hours plays out like a round of the popular board game Cluedo. If you don’t know what Cluedo is, Wikipedia will sort you out. Basically, someone has murdered Nikola Tesla and it’s your job to, erm, watch it all happen? You can’t really affect the outcome in any meaningful way – and you’re not supposed to, you’re just there to wander around this expansive mansion and observe those who may have had a hand in Tesla’s untimely demise.
Watching characters interact while you look for any subtle hints to their intentions is fun in its own right (not in a creepy stalker way), it’s far from perfect. It all looks good when you’re inches from a character’s face, but things soon get blurry if you move a few virtual feet away. It’s a shame, then, that instead of being able to watch a scene from afar and really enjoy the full atmosphere of the drama’s setting, you’re more or less required to be quite literally face to face with the liars, cheats, and everyone else. Thankfully not everything needs to be so intensely observed as many moments can be caught in passing, or missed altogether only to be rediscovered later on. But, damn, the blur is annoying and it did induce a headache after an hours or so.
While it’s certainly a bit of annoyance, I can’t really fault the developers; this is an inherent issue with PSVR as a whole. It’s a VR headset being powered by a console that has no right to be powering VR, so the developers have to make the best of what’s available. Still annoying, mind, but it’s worth noting that technical boundaries play a part here.
The Invisible Hours still looks pretty decent, all things considered, but it’s never going to be a graphical showcase for the hardware. That being said, it does present a believable world. There are some fine details all around the manor, and while things are a little blurry from a distance, they look pretty slick when viewed up close.
The game – I keep referring to it as a game, but it’s not, but whatever – runs over the course of four chapters. This is where things start to lose their way. It’s easy enough to follow one character’s story, but when things start to get interesting people naturally gravitate elsewhere and leave other story threads unseen. Naturally, this means you’ll be wanting to sit through the experience a couple of times to see the outcome of these side threads, but it did feel a little clumsy at times. However, it’s nowhere near as clumsy as the controls.
Playing the game with the required PS Move wands can be a bit of a headache. Movement is of the teleportation variety, much to my dismay. I’m not normally so harsh towards the control method, but in the case of The Invisible hours where precision movements were useful in getting an optimal viewing of a scene, it was a bit of a pain in the arse. Likewise, turning on the spot is done in 90-degree jumps – something I’ve always found to be too jarring in VR. Nevertheless, the controls do work and tracking is about as precise as one could wish for in a PSVR game; you can use the wands to examine things within the unfurling drama, though you’re not able to go around sticking pens in people’s bums. Shame…
While it’s not without its problems, The Invisible Hours is still an outstanding piece of entertainment. It’s not your typical VR jaunt – and maybe that’s why I liked it so much. It’s a refreshing way to experience something I’ve seen a million times in the past; I grew up watching Murder She Wrote, Diagnosis Murder, and Midsomer Murders, so I’m fairly in-tune with how these things play out.
All in all, I’d recommend The Invisible Hours to anyone with a passing interest in the murder-mystery genre as a whole; it’s not everyday you get to step into the screen and watch the events unfold from every angle, for better or for worse.
The Invisible Hours PS4/PSVR Review
Dodgy accents and some questionable voice acting aside, The Invisible Hours gives those who wouldn't look twice at a theatre production a chance to not just watch one, but to step inside and choose how they want to watch it. There's definitely room for new entertainment with VR, and this is a prime example of stepping outside of the norm and into something wonderfully new.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Slim.