Game Review: Invizimals
Release: October 12, 2010
Available Platforms: Sony PSP
ESRB Rating: E10+
A new breed of creatures has been found, but the naked eye cannot see them. They’re dubbed “Invizimals”, and can only be viewed with a PSP’s camera. You must track down and study the creatures across the globe, engaging in a series of battles that tie to your Invizimal conspiracy. Who else knows of these creatures, and what will they do with their powers?
Invizimals, at worst, can be considered Sony’s attempt at the Pokemon world. There have been collect and battle titles before, such as Monster Hunter on the console, but there’s never been one that completely embraces the Sony line of systems as much as Invizimals. The game comes bundled with a PSP Camera and a Capture Card, both of which are integral to the gameplay. There’s no adventuring, your character is the person holding the PSP, and the battlefields are your own world. It’s a pretty interesting and unique take on a burgeoning world of augmented reality gaming.
Most of your gameplay is done with the PSP Camera’s footage as the background. When it comes time to locate an Invizimal, you need to look around your room, your kitchen, or wherever, usually for a solid color (finding Invizimals on piles of red clothes or a yellow exercise ball are likely). You lay down the included “Capture Card”, which is a physical card bundled with the game with unique designs on it. From there, you play a monster-specific mini-game, starting with matching three rotating symbols, and then performing such tasks as lulling it to sleep, dragging it to a cage, jumping from lilypad to lilypad, and more. After you’ve captured one, you can engage in battles at clubs, once again placing the capture card down. From there, the Invizimals involved in the battle rip out the ground (of your laptop, desk, wherever), leading to a six-button battle. Every Invizimal has four main attacks, a defense button, and an item button. Much like Pokemon, there’s a basic rock-paper-scissors elemental battle always in play.
Invizimals has a great augmented reality concept that, when it works, is incredibly fun. Adults will understand the real science behind it (the PSP Camera searches for a certain design found on the Capture Card, and then based on it’s rotation and such, displays the Invizimals in relation to it). Kids will just see their creatures popping out of their couch and have their PSP be the only way to view their world. The game successfully eases you into the world, by having simplistic concepts (attack with a button) expand (attack with certain attacks labeled to buttons) to fully on games (using defense and items, use specific attacks and specific times to defeat your enemy, while capturing items in the midst of battle).
The variable world that the camera can view is limited by the mostly-linear gameplay. You select missions on a globe, with minimal choices at times. The story is told via live-action cutscenes, which are honestly enjoyable in an old-school FMV way, but are less of an adventure and more of a “here’s how or why you’re battling” guide that could have been tacked on after the stock set of missions and Invizimals to capture was decided. Additionally, the limits of the camera show up any time you need to move the PSP, such as shaking to build up an attack or capturing the items that show up mid battle. Many times, the capture card will not register with the game informing you of such. Finally, the card needs to be in appropriate light in an appropriate location. These glitches are just really part of the technology, and more of a limitation of the capabilities we have now.
Invizimals is an amazing concept with a decently functional battle engine, but it almost seems like the story and world were an afterthought. Novorama seems to have spent a good amount of time making sure the augmented reality aspects worked, but little on the fictional reality of the game. Still, fun gameplay and creative concepts warrant checking this out, and the chances of blowing a kid’s mind are worth it.