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The tragic death in April 2018 of Swedish DJ and songwriter Tim Bergling – better known as Avicii – left a number of projects unfinished.
One of these was his third album, which was ultimately completed by a number of collaborators and released in June 2019. Another was Invector, a game he’d been working on since 2015 with Swedish studio Hello There Games (not to be confused with Hello Games).
At least, that’s the story now, according to the game’s trailer which claims that this week’s release of Avicii Invector has “finished the project he started”. In reality, Invector was quietly released on the PS4 in late 2017, when Avicii was still with us, and didn’t really pick up much traction.
Presumably Hello There is hoping that by releasing it on more platforms (and re-releasing on PS4: the initial release is no longer on the Store) it’ll get a second chance to be noticed, especially given that it’s now more of a tribute than a tie-in. As part of that tribute, 25% of the game’s royalties will go to the Tim Bergling Foundation, which helps support mental health awareness.
To be fair, we don’t begrudge Hello There’s attempt to help Invector reach a larger audience. In the two years since its original release it’s been given a healthy dose of polish and while it may not be truly revolutionary in the world of rhythm action games, it’s still a solid and compelling example of the genre that absolutely deserves to be played by more people.
Explaining Invector’s mechanics is like describing a Frankenstein’s monster made up of elements from different rhythm games, but the most obvious comparisons are with DJ Hero and 2017’s brilliant Aaero. After choosing one of the 25 different Avicii songs to play through, you’re placed on a highway and presented with a series of icons to hit.
These icons cover three of your controller’s face buttons on Normal difficulty, and all four of them on Hard. As well as these you also have beat gates which need a hit of the left shoulder button as you pass through them, and arrows which require you to turn in the appropriate direction. Doing this flips the highway onto a different edge – think of it as a sort of tunnel as in games like Frequency – meaning you need to keep an eye on not just what icons are coming up ahead, but what’s on the sides and ceiling too.
“While it may not be truly revolutionary in the world of rhythm action games, it’s still a solid and compelling example of the genre that absolutely deserves to be played by more people.”
Every so often you fly off the highway and the game turns into a flying section where the aim is to fly through coloured gates. These sections are similar to Aaero and aren’t massively challenging, but they’re seemingly designed to act as respite during a song’s bridge section before the inevitable ‘drop’ (as the kids say), at which point you land on the next section of highway and it all kicks off again in a sea of icons and beat gates.
Speaking of the songs, there are 25 Avicii tracks in total here, spanning the man’s entire career. This includes three songs from his posthumous third album, which have obviously been added since the original PS4 release, and includes Heaven: his final single to date, featuring Chris Martin from Coldplay.
Each of the songs are converted brilliantly to gameplay. The key to a good Guitar Hero or Rock Band song was establishing a pattern: songs with random notes dotted all over the place were nothing compared to those that could be learned and mastered. That’s the case here, with each track featuring its own distinct note patterns that can be perfected. The Hard difficulty can throw up some ridiculous sequences at first, but it’s absolutely possible (if not simple) to eventually get a handle of the pattern.
The game’s visual style complements the music wonderfully too. The highways take place over a series of stylised landscapes, and there’s plenty of neon purples, reds and the like here to satisfy those who frequently partake in a spot of clubbing and are more likely to know Avicii’s work. Hitting each note and gate also makes a little glow of the same colour appear round the corner of the screen: this seems fairly arbitrary until you play the game with the lights off and realise it makes your room briefly glow those colours too: perhaps unintentional but a very cool effect nonetheless.
It isn’t a perfect game. As beautiful as the environments are, there isn’t a massive deal of variety. They’re split into a series of themed stages, but most of them are close enough in style and colour design that when you’re busy focusing on the highway you’d be hard pressed to notice any difference.
Some of the stages are also interspersed with some truly awful cutscenes involving your ship’s pilot Stella complaining about her ship breaking down and making snarky comments. It’s not clear whether it’s just because her dialogue hasn’t translated over well from Swedish, but every line falls flat and the general attitude doesn’t really fit well with the tone of the game: Avicii’s music is clearly positive in nature so it’s slightly jarring to have that broken up with random scenes where, for example, she uses her ship to draw a massive middle finger.
These downsides aside, we were pleasantly surprised by how compelling and immersive Avicii Invector is. For the sake of transparency, this reviewer had very little interest in the man’s music before playing this game, and now has his entire discography added to a Spotify playlist. If this is the impact the game can have on someone indifferent to Avicii’s body of work, we can only imagine how it will affect fans.
There’s very little in Invector that you haven’t seen before, but that doesn’t mean any of its elements are unwelcome. Instead, Hello There Games has cherry-picked the more enjoyable elements from a number of different music games and brought them all together for a game that may consist of second-hand ideas but will have you up all night with that elusive ‘one more song’ feeling regardless.
- Tight rhythm action gameplay with well-designed note patterns
- Makes great use of Avicii’s music
- Striking art style and visual effects
- A quarter of profits go towards mental health awareness
- Occasional cutscenes are terrible