game reviewScience fiction comes in all sizes and shapes, although in the video game world the emphasis is often on the more bleep-blew-shooting-laser-guns-at-aliens variant. Nothing wrong with that of course, it has already produced many top games. But there is also other sci-fi, of the harder kind. Stories that are not about epic space battles, but which mainly want to encourage thought and reflection about the relationship between people and technology. Philosophy doesn’t immediately result in flashy action, but ‘The Invincible’ proves that it can have a place in games.
‘The Invincible’ is based on a 1964 book by the Polish author Stanislaw Lem, who, among other things, also wrote the twice-filmed Solaris. The book tells the adventures of several astronauts who discover that the apparently uninhabited planet on which they landed with their spaceship The Invincible, hides more secrets than initially thought.
The game takes this story as a starting point, but is not a literal translation of the book to the controller. In the shoes of Doctor Yasna, you wake up on the strange planet, with no memories of how you got there or what happened to the rest of your crew on the spaceship Dragonfly. Gradually you explore the area and the puzzle pieces start to fall into place. To reveal anything more about the course of the story would be a shame, because ‘The Invincible’ is first and foremost an enigmatic adventure that you have to unravel yourself.
Everything revolves around the plot, the characters and the dialogues, there is no fighting whatsoever. After all, Yasna is a biologist and not a soldier, so your arsenal here does not consist of futuristic shooting equipment but of a notebook, scanners and binoculars. Things that you can use during the adventure, because with the binoculars you can spot new places in the distance that then end up in your notebook that also serves as a map. Finally, you need the scanners to solve environmental puzzles and find points of interest in the environment. The gameplay consists of little more than walking around from point A to point B, interspersed with a flashback here and there and the occasional light puzzle. At various times you also have to make important choices that influence the course of the story, which of course benefits the replayability.
Because the book is almost 60 years old, the makers of the game chose to base the look of ‘The Invincible’ on the science fiction of the time. Everything is bathed in a great retro-futuristic atmosphere that immediately catapults you back to pulp classics of yesteryear. Everything looks wonderfully old-fashioned and analogue, with buttons and levers everywhere that beep, click and rattle to your heart’s content. The only downside is the voices. Not that the voice acting is bad, on the contrary, but for some reason everyone except the main character talks in a whisper. Hopefully this will be addressed with a patch, because sometimes the dialogues are barely intelligible. There are subtitles available, but it does take you away from the atmosphere.
The lack of action and the emphasis on quite in-depth philosophical dialogues will undoubtedly not appeal to everyone. However, those who don’t mind games with a slower pace and want to immerse themselves in an eye-catching retro-pulp atmosphere will enjoy ‘The Invincible’.
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