The thing that will most likely strike you when you begin a game is the visual style. It's a cel-shaded, almost comic book-like aesthetic that somehow manages to feel both retro and futuristic at the same time, which is exactly how the game is supposed to feel. One of the characters, in fact, directly throws back to the "good ol' days" of espionage by wearing a trench coat and fedora, much to the chagrin of his director. The opening cutscene does a fantastic job of setting the stakes for the game: you are small, the corporations are big, and a direct confrontation with them will end in utter defeat.
Corporations control this futuristic world. I know, it seems far-fetched that corporations could ever hold that much sway in our lives, but this is a work of fiction, so... bear with it. Your team has been a thorn in their side for too long, and they've tried to put a stop to you. On the run, with the power draining from your extremely over-powered AI INCOGNITA, you must perform hit and slink and run missions against the corporations to build up a team and arsenal for a last ditch effort to find a server to host your AI before she powers down for good which will mean the end of your little Unobservable, Business. Given how stacked the odds seem against you, it seems like a hopeless cause. Let's get started.
Everything in the game is procedurally-generated. Scratch that sentence, it should read "everything in the gaming industry is procedurally-generated these days" and the same holds true for Invisible, Inc. The level building is very solid. I never ran into any issues, and the levels always felt very cohesive, with many avenues of approach for both your team and the security forces. The levels vary in theme, from collecting a piece of equipment to make your team's arsenal more formidable to rescuing a detained member from a prison to increase your number of personnel, but the general gist of a level is as follows: get beamed in, sneak around avoiding/electrocuting/murdering the guards until you find the Grand Item Of Interest, and then get out alive. The single-mindedness of the objectives actually helps the game, as you don't have to worry so much about what you are trying to accomplish so much as how you accomplish it. Sure, you need to balance whether you are collecting too many agents and don't have enough hardware to fully equip them, but that's not what the game is fundamentally about. It is about sneakery.
Veiled, Co pulls off stealth in such a simple yet elegant way. No shadows to hide in, no light indicator to show you are too illuminated. Just simple line of sight and a bit of sound recognition, but again, this simplicity makes it all the better. Guards' and cameras' lines of sight are all spelled out for you, all you have to do is avoid them. Should be simple, right? And sometimes it is, don't get me wrong. Sometimes, it really is as simple as hiding behind a sofa and waiting for a guard to move to the other side while you circle around the opposite side, and that feels really good to so easily outsmart a guard. But sometimes it goes horribly wrong, because you didn't count on a guard emerging from another door behind you and spotting you. Once spotted, you are immediately targeted and have one space to get out of the sight of the guard that tagged you, or he will shoot. And if you attempt to move into a space that is still in his sight, he will shoot. And if you mention the fact that his tie is crooked, he will shoot. These guards have itchy trigger fingers. But fear not! Because, having anticipated/been paranoid, you have positioned your other team member out of sight, and you move numero two over and take that pesky guard, thus freeing up your other agent to continue her circle around the sofa dance with her own guard. These moments of a plan unraveling but turning into another great plan abound in Invisible, Inc and they make each level its own little story. The agents could sit around the water cooler and swap stories: "Remember that one time I totally tased that guy right as he was about to shoot you?" "Ha, that's nothing compared to the time I snuck past three guards and pickpocketed their key cards and the keys to their car!"
As you can imagine, it is usually best to just sneak past all opposition, ensuring that they never even knew you were there until you are gone. Sometimes, however, things don't go to plan. Then you have to take them out, so to speak. Even there, the game offers you choice. Do you knock them out or kill them? It might seem like an obvious choice if not for two small elements that really turn this game into a nail biting experience. The first is a heart monitor. Apparently these corporations have great health insurance plans, because all the guards are outfitted with a heart monitor that will increase the alarm level if they die. So, you can choose to knock the guard out, knowing that he will come to in a set number of turns and start searching for you, or you can kill him (if you have a lethal weapon), thereby increasing the alarm level and thus the difficulty. Why is raising the alarm level such a big deal? Ha. Noob.
The alarm level starts at 0. A very harmless looking number, but don't try to divide by it. Each turn it progresses one bar farther in its track. Once it reaches five bars, the security level increases, bringing with it some extra annoyance. It could be extra guards, it could be harder to hack electronics, it could be viruses that attack you when you hack into certain objects. With each extra security level, you feel success becoming more and more difficult. So the level naturally becomes harder, but killing guards makes it harder faster, and you need all the time you can get to complete the mission objective. This is a sort of organic moral choice system. Whereas many (read: most) moral choice systems resort to "Yes, that was the bad option, it is bad because I said so, you should feel bad" this moral choice, whether to kill a guard or simply knock him out, has immediate and direct consequences that you must weigh back and forth before making your choice.
This seems to be a good spot to deal with my one technical gripe with Unseen, Firm: space selection. In a game where precise movements can mean the difference between success and failure, pinpoint accuracy in your characters movements is essential. But there are a few very specific instances that work against Invisible, Inc in this regard. Rooms are filled with objects for you to hide behind, but sometimes, at rare points on a map where a door lines up with an object lines up with a wall, it can be tough to determine where the door is versus the wall or the object and which one will is facing which way and which side of you will end up being exposed when you move there. Yes, there is a special button you can push that removes all the objects and makes boundaries much clearer, but it is frustrating that we need a whole different view for what essentially amounts to a one time move. Not a huge gripe but it did frustrate me on more than one occasion. The other space selection issue I have is the automatic pathing that your characters take. When given a situation in which I wish to move to a square around to the other side of a guard without being spotted, and I hover over the space, the path my character will take is displayed. Why on Earth would my elite stealthy assassin think the best path would be to go through guard's line of sight when there is a perfectly good path behind the guard? It does not make sense to me that the default path would be one of loss when one of success is possible. This is, again, a minor gripe that did not seriously detract from my gaming experience.
Then there's the ending. Sigh. I can't avoid it anymore. I loathe this ending. It did not take away from the enjoyment I had playing the game, that was bliss. But then the ending took that bliss, squished it into a ball, dipped it in glue and covered it in thumb tacks and told me to play basketball with it. It makes me not want to play through the game again. And I do not say that lightly, because I sincerely enjoyed the game itself. Perhaps I'm just too jaded, or grumpy, or whatever. But I don't think I am. I can't explain exactly why here because... well...
And last but definitely not least is the theme of the ending. It did not match the overall object of the game, which is about as well as I can explain it without going into too much detail. But don't worry, I am going to write a SPOILER HEAVY article/rant in the near future dealing with this ending and why I think that while the developers may have had good intentions it ending up falling very very flat.
However as I said before, I imagine this will be a controversial subject. You may love the ending. If you do, let me know. I don't mind being told I'm wrong. I'm married. It happens all the time. Will the ending keep away from the game forever? Most likely not. The gameplay is that good. But for right now, I find it really hard to get up the desire to open it up and dive back into the world of Concealed, Occupation when I know what lurks at the end. But when I finally get over that little hump, a wonderful game awaits me that I fear will leave me with a bad after taste.
7.5/10 points from the Better Business Bureau.