With the untimely death of producer and DJ Avicii in 2018, the original release of AVICII Invector on PS4 was a little soured and possibly overlooked by the majority. Given a respectful amount of time has passed, and coinciding with a tribute concert in his name, it’s now being transferred to other platforms with new content and changes to the presentation. Not only that, the existing PS4 version will get a free upgrade that has all the tweaks and additional music tracks. Anyone buying the game new will see 25% of the royalties donated to the Tim Bergling Foundation, setup by his parents to support suicide prevention and mental health research. On the surface this seems like a fitting way of continuing the work Avicii was doing to spread his musical messages and charity support, so does the game do it justice?
AVICII Invector is a rhythm action game as you’d expect from something built around a music producers back catalogue. Taking partial control of a ship flying through outer space, you line it up with prompts on the screen and hit the corresponding button at the right time to add beats to the music track. However, it’s not simply finger mangling fast button presses, being on the right plane is crucial too, so get ready to have your brain cope with the here and now, and also thinking several seconds ahead to try and work out which angle you need to shift to. The tracks are split into three different formats – flat, triangular and free-fly sections – which usually correspond with the part of the song that’s playing. Most of the time is spent in the triangular tunnels, rotating them around and nabbing the collectables; bouncier more upbeat parts are showcased on the flats where the ship becomes more lively; and then breakdowns see you getting more control in the free-fly areas to soar and dive through rings. Each has a specific way of playing and breaks up the flow of prompts so you’re never completely overwhelmed like some of the other genre titles.
If you’re struggling to keep up with the pace of the level, it seems to recognise that and slows things down a notch so that you’ve time to get back in the rhythm, before speeding up to normal. There’s no noticeable affect on the music when this happens, this is purely with the visual display and ends up coming in handy on the higher difficulties where things are more about reactions than planning ahead. On easy there are only four controls to work with – shoulder buttons for a strum represented by a yellow bar across the path; two face buttons as pickups; and left/right directions to rotate or move. Step AVICII Invector up to medium and another face button comes into play and the pickups become more frequent. Crank it up to hard and there’s the full face pad to deal with alongside keeping the beat going with the strum. Each song has its particular challenges and even slow ones can catch you out, but tackle them in sequence and the game doles out just enough progressive complexity that it never feels out of reach. To pass a level 75% accuracy is needed and is a decently low enough barrier that balances learning and avoiding too much repetition.
Those not just content with getting above the pass mark will be keeping an eye on the ranking for each tune, and the global scoreboard. Points are given out for how accurately your button presses are meeting the prompts, how many you string together, and how much of a multiplier has been built. There’s a boost option that’s built up over time and shaking the controller to activate it means doubling the multiplier for the duration. Triggering it at the right points can have a huge impact on the final level tally, and accuracy does not always guarantee a high score. Head in to the post-song stats and you can see what’s contributing the most and figure out if it’s a lack of perfect timing that’s preventing that S+ rank attainment. It’s definitely something AVICII Invector does well in encouraging replay and track mastery. It also gives clues to whether you need to recalibrate the controls or manually adjust the input lag when that top score becomes elusive.
Visually it’s stunning and ties in with a story that’s about a pilot losing their chocolate bar… or at least I think that’s what it’s about. It might also have something to do with a broken warp drive that means she has to fly through different systems to get home. It’s not really important as it just provides the context for the striking design and colourful landscapes. There’s a lot going on, and cleverly it doesn’t distract from the core focus as the twisting tunnel in front of the ship keeps your eyes drawn to it. The audio is superb too with the music loud yet crisp and clear. Sound effects are kept to a minimum and even if you’re making a hash of keeping up it doesn’t affect what you’re hearing. I’d suggest playing this with a decent pair of headphones so that you can really enjoy the nuance of the recordings and not annoy your neighbours at the same time. There’s the added benefit of feeling completely ensconced in the world with nothing but the visuals and music filling your senses. It can be pretty special at times when you’re whipping through a section, nailing all the notes and triggering blazing trails of light.
AVICII Invector’s strength is in the music. The mechanics around that work very well and help drive a compelling game, but it’s the artist that people will mostly be here for. That means its greatest strength is also its greatest weakness because it’s bound to pass non-fans by. That’s fine, no one can be forced to listen to something that doesn’t interest them, but if you’re a rhythm action fan you shouldn’t worry about the music style and give this a go because it’s a slick experience across the 26 tracks available. As a tribute to the late Tim Bergling, and a continuation of a game he helped develop, it’s fitting in that it feels like it’s the best version it can be. It’s also a melancholic reminder that one of the most promising talents in music in recent years went far too soon and his legacy is highlighted here.
A PS4 review copy of AVICII Invector was provided by Wired Productions PR team, and the game is out on the 10th December for PS4, Xbox One and PC at around £16, and will be coming to Switch in 2020.