Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom Review
Monster mash for the minions
Sony’s Invizimals series has been through some changes since its inception on the PSP and has finally made its way to the PS3, ditching the augmented reality features to bring a traditional action platforming experience to the console.
As expected, it doesn’t threaten the genre dominance of the Ratchet & Clank games, but is worth a look for younger gamers. Parents, older siblings, or other family members of young children should take a look at this one instead of settling for the usual movie/TV licensed guff.
In Magenta Software’s game, you control Hiro, a teenage secret agent who has been sent to a distant world populated by the mystical Invizimal warriors to help them fight a robot army. It’s all very child-friendly and features enough bright colours and energetic characters to keep them entertained in short bursts. It’s is an easy game to play thanks to basic controls and a gentle difficulty curve. Some players may find it similar to the Skylanders games, but parents will be glad to hear that they won’t have to succumb to pester-power for new toys to play with in-game.
Hiro is able to team up with the Invizimals and transform into each species to use their unique powers (without having to buy a new toy!). With eight to find naturally over the course of the story and an extra eight hidden off the beaten path, there’s plenty to choose.
Combat is a basic affair, with one button dishing out regular attacks while another handles stronger moves. String enough together and you can unleash a special attack that usually takes out multiple enemies. Combat is far from fluid, but enemies seem slow to react too, balancing out any scuffles you get yourself into. Puzzles are the most basic of door switch affairs and Hiro has lots of help coming through his radio, so getting stuck isn’t an option.
The game world is packed with Z-Sparks, collectible yellow orbs that act as XP currency to buy new strong or special attacks for your Invizimal forms. These include ground pounds, spinners, pounces and so on. Towards the end, you’ll notice that many attacks are identical between forms and may find yourself sticking with a small handful throughout.
The unique abilities for exploring are what make the Invizimal forms stand out though. You’ll find ones with skills to climb walls, fire a grapple gun, shoot shurikens, glide, charge through barriers, use telekinesis to rebuild bridges and so on. Thankfully, a tap of Triangle near the prompt area (a climbable wall or broken bridge for example) will automatically switch you to the relevant form. Older players will most certainly enjoy the Panzer Dragoon inspired stages too as Hiro takes flight on a dragon and enjoys some simple lock-on controls over multiple targets. It’s a shameless rip-off, but there’s no denying it’s a lot of fun.
The Invizimals themselves are introduced by Brian Blessed, which gets old very quickly if I’m honest. That’s not to say the character designs themselves aren’t fun. I mean, Tigershark (a bipedal shark with tiger claws and stripes) might just be the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in a game. Kids are going to lose it when they see it. Ahem, yeah it’s not bad.
Less cool are the sparse checkpoints. You won’t die often in battle thanks to the docile AI, but the odd screw-up while platforming can provide a few “you gotta be kidding me” outbursts when facing replaying the last few minutes of gameplay. Parts where you must revert to human form to inch along narrow ledges or crawl through gaps are painfully drawn out too.
Players may find the lack of a manual camera annoying too, especially when backtracking and running towards the screen, unable to see where you’re going. I can see why the developers have done it, it’s one less thing for younger gamers to tie themselves up with, but more work was needed with providing decent angles. A few glitches saw the camera randomly zoom out too much when approaching a platform, meaning I couldn’t see when it was time to jump.
As I keep saying though, this is a game aimed at children with its simple combos and basic gameplay. It’s nice to see a game that younger kids might actually be able to finish for a change. The story mode took me about six hours to rattle through while collecting most of the extra items, but maybe expect a longer run for kids.
Replay value is solid thanks to being able to revisit any stage and dig around for collectibles you may have missed earlier. These can also be used in the game’s arena mode, which is similar to the older games on the PSP where Invizimals fight each other with basic attacks assigned to each face button.
This mode is basic to play, but there’s surprising depth thanks to the levelling system and upgrades available to beef up your fighter. Once you’ve levelled up a few enough, you could even take them online for duels or 2vs2 matches. Although you should be warned, the matchmaking is a little off -pitching my Lv2 pup against Lv30+ adult yetis and the like. Trophy hunters on the lookout for an easy Platinum should take note that the arena and MP modes aren’t a requirement for any silverware, which may see you giving the game ago yourself too. Otherwise, one for the kids.