“These are the nights that never die.”
AVICII was a trend-setter, an artist with a proper vision. 2011 saw the release of his breakthrough single “Levels”, a feel-good house hit that let him collaborate with a slew of stars after its success. Whether or not this sudden outburst of fame and fortune and endless opportunities was the reason for his tragic death at 28, the impact the passing left was insurmountable. He left behind a multitude of house and EDM bangers, along with a video game: Invector, re-dubbed AVICII Invector.
This here is a re-release/remaster of the 2017 rhythm-action title from Swedish developers– and fans of Obi-Wan Kenobi, it seems– Hello There Games. It’s also their first of two collaborations with AVICII, with their release of the mobile game AVICII – Gravity, which is similar to Invector, just a bit more edible for a mobile game market. The publishing is handled by the darlings over at Wired Productions, the team behind publishing underrated gems like The Town of Light, Victor Vran, and Close to The Sun. So far, so good.
There’s a plot, surprisingly. Christ knows why, but regardless, you play as Maya, a teenage brat in a ship who absolutely loves chocolate. Apparently it’s a rare commodity however, as her home planet doesn’t seem to have any at all. That’s the only reason I can think of as to why she decides to ignore the ships pleas to go home, instead choosing to hunt for this chocolate bar, all the while treating her ship really, really poorly.
I’d like to cut to the chase immediately for once with the gameplay, because it is special. It’s not directly unique in its execution, but it’s the visual presentation which sets it apart from its peers. One of the highways consists of three sides of a triangle, like a Tempest–lite, with your face buttons appearing on said highways. The only other prompts are for L1/LB, and sweeping your ship to the left or right on two of three highways, for there is more than just a triangle highway. The other two consist of a free-flying section that has you go through rings, and the other is a more straightforward and literal highway. All three of these twist and turn around the world, providing a head-spinning experience filled with audio delight.
This is truly a journey for the eyes with its phenomenal visual aesthetic, but there are times when it goes a bit too far. Sometimes the highway will decide to take a massive 180 turn, with button prompts being obscured by both the camera and the surrounding neon environment art. Other times, the highway will force you to make an axis turn in order to hit a face button without giving a prompt. This does make sense in theory, as it intensifies the emotions felt during gameplay, but it throws you off balance.
It feels like prompts made for hard mode, which we’ll get to, but having to force an axis turn without the prompt being there can throw off the tuning, at least for me. It’s like if the song went from 5/4 to 9/8 with the flick of a switch, it’s like whiplash. 15 Step to Tom Sawyer doesn’t work in any capacity, yet despite this, Invector is still very forgiving, when compared to its predecessors, or rather, sole predecessor.
The closest comparison one can make to a game like Invector is the long forgotten Boom Boom Rocket!, which saw players punished for perfect runs more often than not. Here you are, losing your goddamn mind to a synth-rock cover of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture”, you hit 100% of the notes, and the game has the balls to give you a B+ rank based on the timing.
Invector and Boom Boom Rocket! share the same design core, and therefore the same problems. It still has the same rankings based on accurate timing, rather than pure accuracy, but Invector is more forgiving. A, A+, S, and S+ ranks are still common ground shared with a 100% run, and hell, even with a 95-99% run. It’s an oversight the player could possibly miss, since it shows exceptional foresight on Hello There’s part when it comes to the emotions and challenges a player can go through playing a game like this.
You can also “overstrum” without a penalty, which is… honestly, kind of refreshing. You can’t freestyle sections a la Rock Band or DJ Hero, but considering how messy of a controller the standard Xbox One or PS4 controller can be for a rhythm-action game, it’s nice to see restraints in punishments. It just makes the experience of Invector that much more lax and wonderful. That being said, I’m still not a complete fan of its use as a rhythm-action controller. Obviously, there’s not a lot of definition in the face buttons, and even less with the left stick and L1/LB, which is enough to throw you for a loop
There are other niggles I have with the gameplay, like the choice of making the L1/LB button prompt disappear after a streak slowly rises. It’s not hard to lose sight and the beat due to the neon noise present in every environment, along with the aforementioned lack of decent feedback, bar the sound design trying its best to let you know. It can be forgiven, mostly because Invector is willing to overlook just how rough you hit most notes, but the sound design feedback can be buried under the tunes.
Speaking of the music, it’s all phenomenal, which is expected. This isn’t a case of posthumous praise either, AVICII was always ahead of the curve when it came to his meshing of genres and feel-good beats. Beyond “Levels”, you had the emphatic “The Nights”, the heartfelt– And admittedly cheesy “What Would I Change It To”, and some Coldplay-but-better cuts in “Waiting For Love” and “For a Better Day”.
What might turn you off is the amount of songs present, which is 25 — 22 originally, but the re-release has seen a few cuts added from AVICII’s posthumous album “Tim”, released in June of 2019. It’s an update that can only be described as “Bittersweet”, but regardless, they’re still good songs, maybe even great. Even then, for only 20 dollars, you get half of a Guitar Hero: Metallica for a third of the original RRP. Smart move, smart beats.
Obviously, this does have to come with the massive blazing asterisk of “It’s all AVICII, all day”, which puts it in a tricky spot. No amount of guest features from other musicians can change the fact that if you weren’t a fan of his music, or EDM and house as a whole, you won’t even make it to the stigmatized country bops. While it can be considered one for the fans, you really wouldn’t wanna miss this if you’re itching for more Guitar Hero-esque titles, and you’re sick of memes infecting Clone Hero.
Despite some serious missteps in gameplay, along with the stupid interrupting narrative involving an idiots search for a Cadbury bar, Invector is as good as rhythm-action games can get. It’s frantic, emphatic, head-boppin’ action set to music way too infectious to the human spirit, and it’s worth almost anybody’s time. One final asterisk, however: Do NOT play it on hard, unless you value your sanity.
Right, Expert+ is one thing, and that stupid Soulless song is another thing, but the demands from the player when it comes to hard mode are baffling. You’re barely past your first song before “Pure Grinding” slams you on your ass with insane hi-hats and instrumental switch-ups. It’s terrifying, a struggle, and such a huge jump-up in difficulty from “Medium”. Yeah, I’m basically saying hard is hard, I’ll go get my IGN hat.
Other than that, AVICII Invector is fun as hell, and worth your time. It’s the perfect tribute to an artist who truly made new waves for a genre needing a revival and some new bits added to it, along with a game genre needing the same type of resuscitation. Maya’s presence can’t ruin what Hello There Games has put all their effort into, and its presence on the market continues to show off the special eye that Wired Productions has for indie talent.
Rest in Peace, Avicii.
This Review of AVICII Invector was based upon the Xbox One version of the game.
It's one thing to attempt to revive rhythm-action games (and succeed), but it's another thing entirely when you make a legitimately touching tribute from it also. Invector is a great send-off for the EDM maestro Avicii, and it also manages to be a great game to play also.
Owner of the largest collection of indie games in the Western Hemisphere, and TimeSplitters’ biggest fanboy.