Invizimals is a game that may be a bit simplistic in some respects but the tech and execution are there. With gameplay that is easy to get into, nicely designed monsters and a somewhat addicting leveling system, Invizimals may not soon become a behemoth like Pokémon, but it certainly is a nice alternative. Whether you’re a young gamer, have a kid who’s a gamer or are a kid at heart, Invizimals is worth checking out if you love monster battle games.
Nice art style that doesn’t falter under the augmented reality of the game. Gameplay is fun and easy to get into. Despite the somewhat corny plot, the story is entertaining and the acting is good, if slightly over-the-top.
Game would’ve benefitted from having a deeper combat system. Front-end visuals are a bit bland. Occasional snafus with the PSP camera can be annoying especially if it occurs during a match. Some of the monster catching mini-games can end too quickly.
Over the past few years video games have in a way been missing something truly important: imagination on the part of the player. With various games taking us to amazing worlds, whether it’s a sneaking mission in the Artic or battling alien forces in some far flung galaxy, games these days really don’t spark the imagination of the player. That necessarily isn’t a fault of the game since as long as the universe, story and gameplay are good then gamers are good to go. But maybe it’s just the oldie in me, but even the games of yesteryear for the SNES or Sega Genesis had some sort of imaginative spark. Surprisingly we finally have a game that truly has gamers using their imagination in some respects with the new PSP game Invizimals. Combining one part classic monster battling with modern day technology, Invizimals is a game that shocked the hell out of me due to how fun and realized it is.
Invizimals has a very basic concept that should be familiar to gamers who are in the 18-25 age brackets: its simple monster battling ala Pokémon. In fact, if Invizimals came out back in the Pokémon craze with the same technology the game employs today, then I think our heads would’ve all collectively exploded due to how damn awesome it is. That isn’t to say that Invizimals doesn’t stand on its own merits or is a bit lttp in some respect. Actually, looking at Invizimals and its various monster battling brethren like Pokémon or Digimon (my personal fave), Monster Rancher I must say that Invizimals is the one game that really pushes things the most and for the most part succeeds in the process.
The core point of Invizimals is that you collect various monsters, which need to be caught, and later use those monsters in fight club tournaments. No, there’s no dark and gritty monster battling as things are kept relatively lighthearted. But the really cool aspect of Invizimals is how you actually catch the monster and how you fight. Using the PSP camera (which is included in the game), players will literally roam around their apartment/house in search of the cute and often powerful Invizimals. You see, the story of the game revolves around hidden energy that you just so happen are capable of seeing. The story itself is rather cool as its told through live-action cutscenes which involve a PSP Researcher and a British professor, who in a movie geek moment is played by Brian Blessed (Flash Gordon, Henry V). Thankfully the cutscenes and the story as a whole don’t go into the overly corny/hokey territory and instead I felt rather immersed in this almost alt reality where my PSP can aid me in monster capturing.
Anyway getting back on point, the main mechanic and almost gimmick in a way of Invizimals is that you use the PSP camera for everything in the game. By roaming around your living room or bedroom the camera searches for “invisible energy” aka a bright color that attracts the camera. Once you find such a thing I had to lay down my trap card, which is where the magic of Invizimals begins. After I set my trap card and do a quick sequence that’s akin to a QTE, a monster literally springs forth from the trap that as my camera shows, is literally sitting atop my living room table. This is all capable since Invizimals uses a similar version of the augmented reality tech that’s been popping up in various things like the action figures for James Cameron’s Avatar to various viral marketing promotions. Having not experienced the augmented reality tech in such an interactive way, I was really blown away by what Invizimals accomplished. Not only is it cool to see a monster pop out for a portal on my table, but being able to control it and move my PSP and camera around and either get in close or change the angle in a way provided a level of immersion and enjoyment that I haven’t experienced before.
The merits of enjoyment I had with Invizimals weren’t merely limited to the tech enthusiast in me who likes to enjoy cool stuff. As a gamer, I was impressed with what Invizimlas offered despite the somewhat limited offerings. Basically, like any other monster battling game Invizimals is limited to 1 vs. 1 fighting. There’s no crazy tag team stuff nor can players summon other Invizimals to their rescue. Each Invizimal, of which there are a ton, all have specific attacks based on something specific like fire and ice.
All the Invizimals only have four main attacks which are represented by the face buttons on the PSP. So if you want to do a regular attack you just press the x button etc. It may not sound that exciting, but the attack themselves are impressive visually and there is a level of strategy when you’re engaging in your monster battle to the death. Each Invizimal has a stamina gauge and the more attacks you use, the less stamina you’ll have. So when I was trying to beat an Invizimal that looked like a purple bear, I found myself having to choose my attacks carefully otherwise my Invizimal would be down for the count.
The combat is given an added layer of depth since I was able to upgrade my Invizimal’s stats over time and improve things like stamina recovery and how much health they have. As good as that is and even though I did enjoy my Invizimal battles, I really wish there was just more to the combat system like buying new attacks or seeing my Invizimal evolve over time. I was never really bored during my battles but I just wished the game had an extra layer beyond the basic attacks and special abilities like causing the ground to crack beneath your opponent.
Thankfully, the monster catching sections which often are the pre-cursor to the battles offer quite a wide amount of variety. Once I finally detected a spot and laid down my trap card I was treated to a different monster specific mini-game each time. Basically, each monster requires something specific in order to be caught. Some need to be swatted, others need you to shoot awhile the bad dreams while it sleeps and others need to be controlled to successfully jump to lily pads. The monster catching sections can be completed in often less than three minutes so there’s not a constant barrage of long ass mini-games. In a way I was really surprised at how varied things were and how in some of the sequences the game either used the microphone of the PSP camera or was entirely focused on using the face buttons. In my quest to catch them all I was almost always entertained by the inventive things developer Novarama thought of.
Even though I had to keep my PSP directed at the trap card at all times, the PSP camera worked surprisingly well during my hunt for monsters or the ensuing battles. The camera itself has a surprisingly good resolution so the game doesn’t have a muddled or fuzzy look when playing. Of course I had to keep my hands relatively steady while playing but it never felt like a chore and I didn’t get any dreaded hand cramps. One issue I had though was that in the few times when the camera left the trap card, due to over exaggerated shaking when triggering a combat move, the game won’t pause the battle. So when I was in a heated boss battle and was doing my damnedest to survive, I was actually screwed once my camera left the trap card as the battle continued nonetheless.
Going into Invizimals I was familiar with some of the monster based on when I saw the game previously, but I was still a tad worried that the game would feature repetitive monster designs or would come across as trying to ape the Pokémon ascetic too hard. After playing the game for a good chunk of time and catching quite a few Invizimals, I was more than happy with what the game offered on the monster front. The design themselves are rendered quite nicely and being able to get in rather close to them via the PSP camera doesn’t result in any blemishes or weird tech glitches popping up. The style of the game is all over the place and to me that’s a good thing since none of the designs ever fall into a familiar pattern. One minute I was fighting a light blue turtle on steroids, the next I was fighting the aforementioned panda like creature and then I was butting heads with an eagle on steroids so that speaks of the variety Invizimals has to offer.
In the long run I never got tired of battling creatures or roaming around my apartment trying to collect new ones as Invizimals is simple fun that in a way takes gamers back to being kids again. Those who are actually kids and aren’t kids at heart will probably adore the game since their imaginations are bound to go wild as they search every nook and cranny of their home looking for new creatures. For those gamers slightly older and perhaps jaded by games that rely on peripherals, Invizimals may actually chip at the stone that surrounds your gaming heart as it’s hard not to be impressed by the game on some level. With a crapload of Invizimals to collect and matches that are enjoyable and quick, I would definitely suggest checking out Invizimals for those who love getting their monster battling on and want to see what the future holds for the genre.