*The clock is ticking.
And with each tick, the guard-alert status in the secret, hidden-away lab I just materialized in is on the rise. After all, you never know when one of those well-armed thugs might walk around any given corner.
I have no idea where the mission objective lies in this building full of locked doors and camera-guarded hallways. For that matter, there's no way of knowing how best to get out of here when I'm done. But I know there's some valuable tech to be had in this place: gadgetry that will make my clandestine battle against evil just a bit easier. I know I have a certain set of skills at my command. After all, I'm a seasoned spy, and it's time to get moving.*
That's the mentality behind the high-tech, sci-fi tactical puzzle game called Invisible, Inc. It's one of those rare video games that's chock-full of turn-based action fun and tough mental challenges without being overly packed with content that'll blow up in a gamers' faces.
Steal Stuff … and Save the World
The story here is relatively simple in a stylistic, comic book sort of way. It's 2074, an age when megacorps have overthrown the world's governments and now rule the world! (Insert maniacal "Mwu ha ha haas!" here.) Only the elusive secret agency Invisible, Inc. stands between those powerful organizations and the total domination they desire.
But it turns out even that agency has been compromised. So a remnant of loyal agents, armed with an extremely advanced AI computer called Incognita, are on the run. They have a limited number of ticking hours and a finite selection of missions to undertake before they're bound to be cornered like spying rats in a winding trap.
Players choose what sort of facility they'll infiltrate on each mission as well as what type of game-advancing bonus they'll be looking for in any given level. As guard-awareness rises, they have to determine how best to use their agent's limited moves, or "action points," and manage their power resources accordingly during each turn.
For instance, it will take a certain number of steps to get across a given room and peek through a nearby door. Each move burns up an action point. Should your agent peek through the keyhole and then charge into the partially seen room next door to keep moving and save time? Or might be best just to stand by in ambush mode on this side of the door in case those footsteps you hear are heading your way?
Here's another example: Should you use a power resource to tap into an adjacent terminal and perhaps pick up some more valuable intel? Or use it to zap that security camera or hack the drone in the hallway for your own use?
In each situation, players face several different tactical, problem-solving possibilities. But only the right set of decisions will get you through the mission undetected. Fortunately, if a guard does walk in and cast a curious eye in your direction, the game even offers a quick turn-rewind to see if a better choice can be made. (Hey, those spies have a gadget for everything, dontcha know?)
(Mostly) Minding the Messes
Though each mission essentially sports the same slip-in-steal-the-goodies-then-slip-out-quietly modus operandi, things never devolve into a boring, mindlessly repetitive grind. Approaching a mission's obstacles with a pair of different, upgradable and uniquely skilled spies helps to spice up the proceedings. And Invisible, Inc.'s randomized, repeatable and increasingly difficult map challenges always keep things feeling fresh and easily digestible in short gameplay sessions.
While this T-rated game admirably avoids the gratuitous content excesses that often fill its M-rated equivalents, there are a handful of issues to note here. From our three-quarter bird's eye view, guards can be knocked out for a short time or killed and left in a small pool of blood. (That said, there's also a major penalty for any lethal action, so the game has a built-in deterrent for that level of violence.) Elsewhere, a few cutscenes feature cartoony splashes of blood. We hear isolated, heat-of-action exclamations of "h--" and "d--n," and glimpse someone smoking.
Those issues may push Invisible, Inc., just out of bounds for the youngest players. For adults and older teens, Invisible, Inc.'s engaging espionage challenges offer an opportunity to put your tactical problem-solving skills to the test … without the typical trigger-tugging turmoil that sometimes comes along for the ride in similar spy-caper contests.