The Invisible Hours is a VR Murder Mystery Where the Story Doesn’t Wait for You

by Joe Durbin • April 3rd, 2017

Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall? Have you ever wanted to perch, unseen and unnoticed, while fascinating events play out for your observation? An upcoming virtual reality game from Tequila Works will give you that experience.

The Invisible Hours is a VR murder mystery set in the 1870’s. Seven people are trapped in a gothic mansion on a rain soaked island in the middle of a lake. These people don’t have much in common except that they are all suspects in the murder of the mansion’s owner — Nikola Tesla.

That’s right, the famous inventor is dead and it is up to you to figure out who did it. While most VR games put you in the first-person shoes of a main character, however, The Invisible Hours makes you a ghost.

None of the suspects can see, hear, or speak to you as you set out on your investigation. This means that there won’t be any interrogation or clue solving mini-games. No, the only way to figure out who killed Tesla is to do something revolutionary for a video game: listen.

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As an unseen observer, you have full run of the mansion and its grounds. Where you go is up to you, and being in the right place at the right time is crucial to understanding the game’s complete story.

One example can sum up what makes this game so unique and intriguing. During my demo experience at SVVR last week, I found myself in the parlor standing over Tesla’s body as several characters began to realize there had been a murder. They gathered like moths to the flame and started crying and arguing over how to proceed from here. This was gripping exposition and clearly important for unlocking the mystery. However, on a whim I decided to walk away from these key plot points and enter a random side-chamber. To my surprise I began to hear muttering and I soon discovered that another character was hiding from the rest of the group. He was praying for forgiveness and leaning around the corner at the grieving assemblage I had just left.

Here’s the real kicker. That same character’s story eventually crossed over with the main events playing out around Tesla’s body. The muttering man is spotted out of the front window making a break for it. He’s stopped by another character and brought inside. What this means is that I could have easily stayed with the main group and listened for guilt in their voices as they mourned Tesla’s fate. However, had I done so I would have been introduced to the muttering man only when he was spotted running and would have entirely missed his repentant prayers in the other room.

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Seeing that other interaction completely changed my perception of this man while also providing me with a big potential clue. All of this took place just from me walking through this house and listening.

Tequila Works has struck upon a notable new approach to interactive narratives in gaming. Lots of titles take the time to give NPCs interesting bits of dialogue that help build a world, but I’ve never seen a game that combines simple human curiosity and general nosiness into a core mechanic.

According to the developers present at my demo, The Invisible Hours will have multiple criss-crossing storylines and it will be up to the player to follow the ones they find most interesting.

Telling a story like this could only really work in a meaningful and interesting way inside VR. Pointing and clicking on a screen while characters mumble story tidbits could be fun for a select group of gamers, but just about everyone should enjoy stepping inside this Agatha Christie-like novel and trying to answer that all important question: whodunnit?

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The Invisible Hours is planned for release later this year for the PSVR, HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.

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