Invizimals: The Alliance Review

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Title: Invizimals: The Alliance
Developer: Novarama, SCEA 
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 1.3 GB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download  | Retail

EU Availability: Digital Download  | Retail
PSTV Support: No

Ever since Sony went into the handheld market with the PSP, and now the PS Vita, there have been a lot of questions.  Many of these questions regarded when certain types of games would be coming out on those handheld systems.  Big franchises like Metal Gear Solid and God of War, among others.  One of the biggest questions, though, is when or if Sony will make a new IP in response to the ongoing Nintendo monster-catching franchise, Pokemon.

Since the PSP launched, there were a few attempts at this.  One notable game is called Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner.  This was a third-party PSP game that featured jewel-gathering to capture monsters to summon and use in turn-based battles.  Three years later, though, there was a franchise that began that has dawned five games across three PlayStation consoles.  Taking the monster-capturing theme of Pokemon and combining it with Augmented Reality, the franchise known as Invizimals was born.

Invizimals began on the PSP as more of a test to combine camera-based augmented reality with monster-catching.  As it went into the world, it became a franchise.  Mostly based in the Europe region, Invizimals has seen three PSP games, a PS3 game, a TV series, and one game on the PlayStation Vita with another on the way.  Being the series’ first entry on the Vita and its much-anticipated debut in North America, here is our official review of Invizimals: The Alliance!

Story

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The story of Invizimals takes place in the real world.  Every scene for the game is live-action with real people playing out every role that you see in the game.  Aside from the Invizimals, themselves, which are CG-generated, every human character in the game is played by an actor or actress, as if the scenes were taken straight out of a TV show or a movie.

The plot of The Alliance shows that there is a world outside of our own, gateways to that invisible to us.  Within this realm are invisible creatures known as “Invizimals”.  You are an Invizimal Hunter, part of a group of humans known as The Alliance.  The Alliance is a group of hunters and researchers with a Shadow Gate that leads to the Invizimals World and is dedicated to learning, communicating, and establishing relations with Invizimals through capture, training, and exploring each of the worlds.

As the plot of the game starts, you find that Invizimals are flocking into the real world in huge numbers and offering very hostile and aggressive behavior they have never done before.  Your task is to build a base of operations to capture and calm the Invizimals as well as uncovering the mystery behind why they are coming to our world and putting a stop to what is threatening theirs.

The story of Invizimals is very family and child-oriented.  As every scene goes through, it feels kind of like a childrens’ TV show.  It has some very deep tones of environmental friendliness as well as showcasing villains that act as they would in a kids’ show as opposed to a more adult theme.  The environment and way the story progresses is charming, though older gamers may be a bit annoyed at the “kiddy” tone.

Gameplay

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Invizimals: The Alliance is an Augmented Reality game.  Giving it a specific genre is very difficult.  Among all of the features and things you do in the game, it can be considered several genres.  There are parts of the game that are very much an RPG and others that are shown as a rhythm game, and others as Augmented Reality, and more.  In essence, this is an Augmented Reality Monster-Taming game.  Think of it similar to Pokemon, but more with a reality tone to it.

The game has three different modes for you to play through: Story Mode, Quick Battle, and Multiplayer.  Story Mode is the longest, allowing you to make your base and progress through the game’s plot.  Quick Battle is more of a quick-play battle, letting you make quick battles with any of the Invizimals you have gained from Story Mode.  Finally, Multiplayer lets you play, trade, and battle with friends, whether local or online.

In Story Mode, you are part of The Alliance, and you have to make a base of operations with various facilities as Invizimals are coming into the real world.  You will set up various facilities, each built using the Augmented Reality (AR) settings on the Vita and each of them has different functions.  The Shadow Gate is used to capture Invizimals or defend your base.  The Kitchen is used to make food for your Invizimals.  The Marketplace lets you buy items and Invizimals.  The Hotel is used to house your Invizimals as well as changing and evolving them.  The Battle Arena lets you participate in battles and tournaments to strengthen your Invizimals.  All in all, there are several facilities you can build, each with different functions.

The biggest parts of the game are capturing and training your Invizimals.  To capture your Invizimals, you either buy them or find them.  Finding and capturing each one requires you to incorporate the various features of the PS Vita and participate in mini-games with them, having to do with the AR settings of the game.  For this, you will need AR cards that came with your Vita.  If you do not have these, they can easily be printed and cut out from the following link:

http://www.capsulecomputers.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/PS-VITA-AR-CARDS.jpg

Capturing Invizimals has two steps.  The first step is to find them.  Finding them has you going through interactive minigames with the real world around you.  You may have to find a specific color or follow the noise to find the Invizimal.  You may even need to walk and follow where the Invizimal is hiding before you find it.  Many of these mini-games can be time-consuming as well as frustrating.  Sometimes, the game will need you to walk forward past a wall in your home, which is a big frustration factor.

Once you find an Invizimal, you will use an AR card or a colorful wall to make it appear before you, be it on your shower curtain or on your kitchen table.  The key is getting the camera to detect the wall or card, so always be in a well-lit area or room.  Some of these also require more than one card, set in a certain pattern as is shown to you via Tutorial.  You then participate in a mini-game until you capture and recruit the Invizimal.

These mini-games will use several features of the Vita.  It will also depend on the Invizimal you’re trying to capture.  Some will have you blowing into the microphone to reveal treasure hidden in tall grass.  Others will have you using the Rear Touch Pad to perform X-Rays as you nurse an Invizimal back to health.  There are even some that will have you guiding a spider up your wall to collect gems while avoiding falling debris.  Across all of the mini-games, you will use every feature the Vita has to offer, from buttons to six-axis to the camera to both touch screens.

Once you capture an Invizimal, you can use it to fight in battles.  This is where the other crucial part of the game comes into play: Combat.  The battle system for the game has you in a 3D arena against one or many opponents.  You will be in an arena and the combat happens in real-time.  You have free roam around the arena while you’re locked onto an enemy, and you have four different attacks to choose from, each with their own strength and range.  You can attack, block, and dodge depending on your timing.

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Another factor to consider in your Stamina.  When in combat, everything you do uses a certain amount of stamina.  Attacks, Guarding, and Dodging all use stamina.  If you run out of stamina, you get tired and have to stay still until it regenerates.  Apart from that, there are objects you can collect in battle, from Sparks to healing items for Health and Stamina, and power-ups called Vectors that you can use as special attacks.  You will keep fighting until you or your opponent runs out of HP.

After battle, anyone on the winning side who doesn’t get knocked out earned experience and when they get enough, they level up.  Leveling up will give you access to Skill Points you can use to increase any of your stats, be it Attack, Stamina, Recovery, Armor, HP, or others.  Leveling up also will give you access to Evolutions and Team/Combo attacks you can use in future fights.  Each Invizimal has three evolutions, and getting to those further-evolved states is key to preparing for battles further along in the story.

The biggest tasks with progressing through the game is by Capturing Invizimals and fighting through Story Battles and solving puzzles.  Throughout the game, you will be using your AR cards for a lot of progression.  You don’t use them in battles, but you do in most of the other facilities.  Once you clear the Story Mode, though, you can still return to the Story Mode for post-game content, such as new Invizimals and different Mini-Games for collecting and gathering items.

With the Story Mode going, the game will last you around 8 hours.  However, the Story Mode only gives you 43% completion for the game.  Apart from this, you can use Quick Battle or go back into Story Mode to further level up your Invizimals and Rank to try to collect everything.  Or, you can use the Options Menu to clear all of your Save Data and start the game new.  After you clear Story, though, the main task is collecting more or taking part in Online Multiplayer to keep training and unlocking Arenas and Invizimals.

Controls

The controls for the game are very open as you will be using every feature of the Vita as you progress through the game.  Across everything you do in the game, you will be using the touch screen, rear touch pad, microphone, camera, six-axis motion controls, as well as the buttons on the system.  While each segment gives you clear instructions on what to do, it is a pretty complex control scheme.

Navigating many of the menus is done with either the touch screen or the D-Pad.  Not all of the menus offer button options, but many of them do, such as navigating your base or choosing arenas or Invizimals before you start a battle.  Generally, though, it’s a little more responsive if you use the touch screen for those menus.  The game flows a little faster and you can save some time.

The part of the game where the buttons go forward is in battle.  When you’re in combat, you will always be using the Left Analog Stick to move and the Right Analog Stick to rotate the camera.  The biggest controls are the face buttons though.  Each face button is dedicated to a specific attack, and you tap a button to unleash that attack.  Aside from this, you can also use the L Button to guard or dodge (depending on the timing).  There are Vectors and Combo Attacks, which are done by tapping sections of the touch screen.

The biggest downside of the controls is the AR Technology.  While the game is very intuitive in what it uses with the AR Cards, they are a little glitchy.  There were many cases where the CG on the AR Cards would fidget and twitch.  This was especially apparent when using more than one card at the same time.  The AR flowed nicely when using a wall or floor, but is glitchy with the actual AR Cards.  It works, but it can be a bit frustrating.

Presentation

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As far as the presentation goes, the game is quite interesting.  A lot of the game doesn’t use in-game visuals.  First of all, the scenes aren’t CG.  While they do have some CG for Invizimals in scenes, the majority of the scenes are purely live-action.  There are real actors in the game and the CG that is in the scenes is very well-done, crisp and perfect just as you’d expect in a PS3 or PS4 games.  Each Invizimal and other CG object in the game is rendered flawlessly and looks great.

The in-game CG is also well-done.  When Invizimals appear on the screen, they do show a very big reality-like environment.  When you aim at a wall for the capture of the spider-based Invizimal, it really looks like there’s a CG spider crawling up the wall of your house.  The renders themselves aren’t perfect, but when you get close, it’s hard to find any jagged edges on their models.  It’s definitely one of the better visual presentations for a Vita game.

The game also flows well, throughout.  There was never a time when I experienced any slowdown or lag in gameplay or between areas.  The online gameplay also runs well.  When I did a 2 vs 2 match online the day I wrote this review, it played as seamlessly as when you do a battle against the CPU.  The presentation was well-done and well-optimized for the Vita.

Summary

Invizimals: The Alliance is a game that is very unique and clever in how it uses every feature the PS Vita is capable of to make you believe Invizimals are real.  On the down-side, some of the Capture mini-games can be very frustrating and there’s not a lot to do after you clear the Story Mode than grinding and finishing the tournamants.  However, The Alliance proves to be a very creative game with a deep real-time battle system, online multiplayer, and a lot of monsters to capture and train. 

8/10

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