Hunting strange creatures? Capturing them and then using them to fight against each other? On a handheld console? Hmmm, sounds familiar…
Invizimals: The Lost Tribes is the third title for the PlayStation Portable from the Invizimals franchise. Developed by Novarama and released by Sony Computer Entertainment, it enables players to continue where Invizimals: Shadow Zone left off, where players explored the Shadow Zone on a rescue mission to find Keni. In this exciting new adventure, Invizimal explorers start their journey as Jazmin or Alex and set off on a quest around the globe to battle, hunt and collect Invizimals. There are 150 Invizimals to collect each with different special abilities. The game starts by inviting new explorers to learn the basics of Invizimal hunting using the PlayStation Portable camera and special Magic Card, which is included with the game.
Explorers are shown how to trap invizimals with some simple gameplay basics using your surrounding environment and the required coloured background. Directing the camera towards the Magic Card in a well-lit area activates a radar. Drawing closer to the card allows the PlayStation camera to focus on the Magic Card and a nouse will indicate that the player has found an Invizimal. Each capture sequence begins with two symbols that rotate which the player has to align by pressing the X button when they overlap. Doing this three times seals your first Invizimal, which in my case was ‘Stingwing’. The player then has to successfully complete a mini game to capture the Invizimal.
There are four attacks within the game; quick attack, strong attack and two basic attacks. Combat mostly consists of these four attacks. Battle stages are enjoyable to watch, with augmented reality Invizimals emerging from the ground, along with any battlefield scenery. Invizimals will stand facing each other and have two bars above them that show life and stamina. Strong attacks can deal a huge amount of damage, but use more stamina, whereas quick attacks cause swift and light damage but use less stamina. The square button is assigned to the quick attack, and the triangle button for strong attack. Invizimals can defend themselves by holding down the left shoulder button, which casts a blue shield around your Invizimal, protecting them. You can also pick up blue orbs that have been scattered on the ground which are the currency within the game. Combat continues until one creature loses all of its life. Losing all of their stamina will result in the player being unable to attack or defend.
During battle, the player will have the chance to use vectors, which can cause incredible amounts of damage. These are activated using the right shoulder button. The first one you use is a life pack, which simply heals your Invizimal. The D-pad allows the player to choose from various environmental vectors which come in the form of different elements. Pressing up and down through the D-pad, the first one that the player gets to try is the earthquake vector which requires the shaking of the PSP for a few seconds to activate a shattering earthquake, causing the other Invizimal a fair amount of damage. Once the battle is over, the Invizimal will receive experience points, to hopefully increase in level, and accumulate spark points. Sparks points are used in the shop to purchase vectors. There are more than twenty to choose from and each perform a special attack.
After being treated to a brief storyline revolving around Keni, you’ll be sent off to Athens for your first Invizimal adventure. Once here, you’ll have to capture a Minotaur Pup, Ceburus Pup and Cyclops Pup. Each capture begins with the same process of sealing the Invizimal and then capturing with a series of AR mini-games. The mini games are quite comical, but some are terribly frustrating at times. In one of the early games, you’re in search of some fluffy white sheep with a torch in the pitch darkness. You can hear the sheep bleating in the darkness, but your Invizimal keeps dozing off, so you need to shake the PSP to wake them up and keep them alert. Another of the mini games has you racing around a labyrinth of walls in search of an exit, with only time dimensions to collect to give you extra time to perform the task at hand. Sometimes you’ll have to piece together a broken mosaic picture within 60 seconds, using the right shoulder button to pick up each piece, and square button to rotate the piece, before putting it all together to form some more absorbing information about the storyline. All of these games take place using Augmented Reality, superimposing the game area onto whatever the player happens to have the magic card sitting on.
Once you’ve leveled up your Invizimal you can go onto the Club Fight area, which enables you to take on a set of battle challenges. The game gives you a source of constant feedback from Keni’s Diary. Inside you’ll discover ‘Your Pages’ which give you an insight into the collecting of Invizimals. You can also see what missions you’ve completed, how many you may have lost and the level of your Invizimal.
Graphically, Invizimals: The Lost Tribes’ augmented creatures come in a raw form, looking quite angular. My favourite is Erebus, a small turtle with a powerful and protective shell. The live action cut-scenes were well done, if perhaps a little over-acted, and it was very cool to see Brian Blessed on the little screen.
The gameplay felt very much like Pokémon collecting and seeing how popular Pokemon is, I can see how this game could really entice people to play it. But it’s very difficult in some places, such as certain mini games, which brought no end of frustration. I also found that the camera was not as responsive as I had hoped for, sometimes completely losing the image, and other times having to balance myself in precarious positions to view ther image properly.
This was my first time playing an Invizimals game and I am quite impressed. It doesn’t have the compelling nature of Pokémon, but the gameplay is more varied and with 150 Invizimals to find and collect, the game has the potential to keep the player entertained for a very long time. The Augmented Reality can be a bit awkward, but it felt less like a gimmick than it has when used on other consoles and games. Invizimals: The Lost Tribes will require a certain amount of patience, but is surprisingly rewarding for those willing to give it a try.