Invizimals is Sony’s quieter answer to Pokémon, and the current game has two components: the PS Vita Invizimals: The Alliance, and Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom on PS3. We’re reviewing the latter game today, so let’s take a sightseeing tour through the Lost Kingdom, shall we?
In Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom, you play as Hiro, a young explorer with an organization that …well, does something with Invizimals. The game isn’t too clear on exactly what the organization’s purpose is. The opening cinematic (which is filmed with real actors) shows Hiro heading through a suspiciously Stargatesque portal into the Invizimal world, becoming CGI in the process. On the other side of the portal, Hiro is met by an Invizimal called Ocelotl, who gives Hiro the power to change into his form. It turns out that a group of steel creatures have caused some havoc in the Kingdom, and it’s now up to Hiro in his new form to figure out what’s happened and stop the rampaging creatures. As Hiro progresses through the Kingdom, he’ll acquire new Invizimal forms and new abilities with them, allowing him to proceed through the world.
The game is essentially a 3D action platformer with minor puzzle elements, and it’s very obviously aimed at a younger demographic. The controls are simple enough, and there’s no camera control, meaning that the young players can concentrate on the action instead of fighting with the controller. The game also starts out tame enough, not presenting much of a challenge at all, but toward the mid game, this ramps up significantly. I imagine that, to a young player, it’s a bit like wading into a toe-depth pond, and then discovering about halfway across that it’s a smidgeon deeper than the initial splashing would indicate. And also, there are piranhas nibbling at your toes. The puzzle elements of the game come from knowing which Invizimal to use to manipulate which part of the world. It’s not too complex, but by the end of the game, you’ll have acquired 16 Invizimal forms (and therefore 16 powers). Speaking of acquiring Invizimals, before you can acquire the form, you need to go head to head against that Invizimal, and these incredibly cinematic battles take the form of a bunch of a QTE button presses. My kids LOVED these parts, and always looked forward to gaining a new power to see what could be done with it.
Graphically, the world is beautifully and colourfully rendered, but nothing that screams “PS3!” at you. It doesn’t even whisper “PS3”. If anything, it mumbles “Wii” or “PS2” in a barely-disguised disgruntled voice. The polygon count looks on the low side, which is a little sad; a friendly cartoony feel CAN be created that still looks good—see Ratchet and Clank for an example. This game looks like the art department buggered off for pasta halfway through the process and didn’t’t bother coming back to finish raising the polygon count. It’s not that it looks utterly like a lion’s breakfast, because it’s still charming. It’s just that it could have looked a lot better if the artists had come back after the pasta date. In fact, it sounds like the musicians went along with the art department, because the sounds are nothing memorable at all. I can’t recall a single tune, and this is coming from someone who adores video game music.
So graphics are sub-par, music is terrible, but how does it play? Surprisingly well, actually. The gameplay department missed out on pasta. Both my son and I had a lot of fun with the single player campaign, and I’ve had to hear for days both my boys yelling “Ocelotl!” and “Tiger Shark!” and “Minotaur!” and “Xiong Mao!”, mimicking the game’s Iron Chefesque announcer. What is interesting is that many elements are only used in a single level, and then never seen again. The exploding barrels from the first level, for example, or underwater segments from the third level. The level designers must have also gone for pasta, because there were so many opportunities for replayability; for example, including elements in early levels that could only be unlocked by later Invizimals. Nothing of the sort here, of course, but it would have been great.
The game also features a 4-player battle mode, which is horribly inferior to the campaign mode by a long journey. You’ll need to play the main campaign to unlock a few fighters first, but to get the most from the battle mode, you’ll need to own the PS Vita game as well, because that will unlock all the Invizimals for you. The control team for the battle mode went for pasta as well, because it is unresponsive, horrible, and not fun to play at all. You’re incentivised to keep playing battle mode with level upgrades, experience points, and so forth, but the battles are so little fun that it’s not worth playing much.
Overall, the game isn’t too bad, especially given its target demographic. It’s another case of “could have been much more”, but given that I have not played an Invizimals game before, and I don’t have the companion game, it’s still a surprising amount of fun to play. It will give younger players a decent enough time, and replayability comes from finding every last collectible in the game throughout the levels (and finding them all can be tough!) For parents wanting a clean, fun game as a stocking filler for young gamers, you could certainly do worse than this.
Final Score: 6 Invizible Prawnataurs out of 10
Developer: Magenta Software
Age Rating: 7