Genre: Action, Arcade
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Steam)
Developer|Publisher: Art Game Studio
Age Rating: EU 3+ | US Everyone
Price: US $7.99 | UK £7.19 | EU € 7,99
Release Date: May 20th, 2021
Review code provided with many thanks to Art Game Studios
It feels like there has been a few months break since the last roguelike game I covered on the site. A game where death means you lose absolutely everything, having to start the game from the beginning. The only experience you take with you is the lessons you learned from the previous run.
This week we have Invirium, a biological adventure that will take you through the body on a quest to rid organs of disease. A game that certainly has an interesting premise for a video game but is it any fun to play?
Invirium plays like a top-down twin-stick shooter. The main cell you will play as is a Neutrophil which is a type of white blood cell that can attack antigens such as bacteria, fungus and viruses which in this game act as the enemies to defeat. As a Neutrophil, you can attack the antigens by shooting out proteins (a process called degranulation) or occasionally ingesting microorganisms and destroying them (a process called phagocytosis). The latter here acts as a power-up that you can use automatically when it has charged up. But swallow any enemies when the power is still charging and it could be fatal.
The idea of the game is to move from room to room removing all diseases, as you progress you can find power-ups to buff your stats. You can also collect little purple pellets from fallen enemies which will level your cell up letting you sink points into an attack, health or reduce the cooldown for your ability and dash. You just need to remember to head into a menu to do this.
As is the case with roguelikes each level ends with a boss fight. Here it is quite literally a giant virus which is ridiculously hard, but somewhat amusing. Repeat this for four organs around the body and you win the day and save the body.
The premise of this game is utterly brilliant, though I feel bad for the poor patient that has somehow managed to catch so many diseases in one gameplay session. The graphics are appropriate for the settings. You move from room to room through blood vessels and the enemies you encounter kinda resemble bacteria, virus and fungus you may remember from looking up in your school days.
Any of these enemies you defeat can later be viewed in a menu to learn more about them. The loading screens also drop a few facts before you dive into another run. It’s always nice to see a game try to throw in a bit of education now and then. The only trouble is Inviruim as a game is lacking in many areas which are where the troubles start to show.
The roguelike elements in Invirium are poorly balanced. The levels, enemies and power up drops are all randomly generated. This includes the enemies level of difficulty. Your starting cell is very underpowered and slow-moving and I began some runs entering rooms filled with overpowered enemies which were near impossible to defeat with my under levelled cell. Making several runs end far too early. Not only that, when the odds are in your favour and you level up and things appear to be going smoothly, the difficulty often takes a surprisingly steep turn.
I was sometimes on a roll with full health and good power-ups only to enter a room with enemies that just killed me in one hit. Additionally, there is very little variety in power-ups which also can’t be stacked if you find multiples of the same. You can also find shops in the game to buy new abilities but the game gives you no indication of what each item does before purchase making it feel like you’re taking a shot in the dark. You also have a mini-map that you can’t zoom in on to track your progress.
Another big niggle is this game has modes and unlockable characters that are ‘coming soon’ making this game an Early Access experience, only it’s being released under the guise of a finished product. I have no problem with developers doing this but it needs to be made clear to customers before they purchase. Some may say this is a Nintendo issue but I do feel developers owe a responsibility to their consumer base to make it clear their game is a work in progress before selling it.
Conclusion-Shot Through the Heart
I love the premise of Invirum and with some patching and work, I can see this becoming quite the entertaining roguelike game to play in short bursts. It’s just not that game yet and I don’t think it should have been released in the current state it’s in on Switch. Buy with caution at this stage.
I will keep an eye on Ivirum over the next few months and update my review once the patches start rolling in.
Final Verdict: I’m Not Sure