The Invizimals have had a storied history on Sony’s hand-held devices. The Pokemon-inspired monster capture series has never been groundbreaking or overly memorable, but it was still fun for kids to play. Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom is the series’ first foray onto a home console, and the transition did nothing to help the franchise. Instead of the typical ‘collect monsters and battle with them’ gameplay, Lost Kingdom is an action/platformer that takes a page out of Ben-10’s book and has you turning into the Invizimals themselves.
The story of Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom takes place separate from the main Invizimals storyline. Here, you will play as the young Hiro as he ventures into the world of the Invizimals to save them from a mechanical army that threatens their very existence. When he reaches the world, Hiro begins to bond with various Invizimals who in turn grant him the ability to turn into them at a moment’s notice.
The game feels like a cross between Ben 10 and Digimon. Hiro, donned with a pair of goggles and a wrist-mounted device heads into a mysterious other dimension filled with strange monsters and is able to transform into them. In fact, that is the entire plot line of Digimon Frontier. Regardless, with Ben 10 still being such hot property, this will more than likely grab the attention of Mr Tennyson’s fans. One has to wonder though, why do the Invizimals need the help of a young boy to stop the robots, when all he is doing is turning into another Invizimal?
The Lost Kingdoms, in a drastic departure from the series’ norm is a 3d action platforming title. Instead of collecting the Invizimals, you will become them. Turning into an Invizimal grants you access to all of their powers and abilities which in turn allow you to progress through the game’s platforming puzzle sections. Although, ‘platforming and puzzle,’ is a very loose term here, as there isn’t really much of either. The game’s difficulty is simplistic at best, and that extends to the game’s combat.
During your trek through The Lost Kingdoms, you will occasionally (and I do mean occasionally) come across enemies to defeat. Many of these are taken out with one or two punches, and even the later enemies only take a couple more. There is no skill or finesse required here, and no cool looking combos to string together – just hit the attack button a couple times until the enemies are destroyed.
The game’s hook of allowing you to turn into Invizimals doesn’t do all that much for me as a player. With 16 Invizimals to unlock and transform into, I expected a wealth of variety in not only their combat styles and abilities, but also in the environments and puzzles to progress through. In most games of this variety, there will be different bonuses and advantages to playing as different characters outside of their ability to complete certain puzzles. Unfortunately, in Lost Kingdom there are little to no differences in how the characters move and fight, so I found very little reason to keep me playing as anything other than the first Invizimal – Ocelotl and only switching out to the others when the need arose.
One major aspect of the game is the collection of the game’s two in-game currencies. One currency works for single player upgrades, while the other is far more scarce and is used in the game’s multiplayer arena. The collectible currency is limited, and always found in plain sight. During my playthrough I only managed to miss a few dozen pick-ups by and even so, going back and finding them was a far simpler task that I would have liked.
Each of the game’s levels features a locked door. Locked doors require you to spend your currency to progress through. Inside you will find a few enemies to defeat, a canister of the multiplayer sparks, and less coins than you spent to enter the room. It really feels like a waste, and after your first few unlockable doors, when you realise that the rooms behind them are always the same, you quickly lose interest in opening any more (except that you have to in order to get the 100% completion in each stage).
Lost Kingdom also features multiplayer connectivity with the PS Vita title – Invizimals: The Alliance, as well as its own competitive battle arena for up to 4 players. I wasn’t able to try out the connectivity with The Alliance, but the multiplayer battles put you in the role of one of the Invizimals, doing battle with your friends. As I mentioned earlier, there is no real difference in the combat abilities of the Invizimals, so these battles quickly lose their luster.
Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom is by no means an ugly game, but it certainly has its problems. It is probably best to say that the game would look very good, if it was a few years older. The character models for the Invizimals are all very brightly coloured and feature a tonne of visual uniqueness and detail that you wouldn’t expect. The world of Lost Kingdom is equally well drawn, with everything getting an almost cell-shaded, cartoon quality that really looks great. The problems in setting come from the fact that so many of the set-pieces are reused over and over again.
The game’s biggest graphical problem though is the fact that certain animations are just missing a tonne of frames. I found this most noticeable in combat and when using Ocelotl’s grappling hook, but it appears so frequently that it is almost impossible to miss. Once you deploy Ocelotl’s grapping hook, you will immediately find yourself in the air swinging. There is no jump animation, or an kind of transition, just press the button and suddenly you are mid-swing.
Another serious problem is the fact that the game features a locked camera. Players can only shuffle the camera angle a couple of degrees either way and even then, letting go of the thumb-stick will flick the camera back to its position. Considering how many of the game’s maps are designed, it is often hard to tell whether you are heading towards a hidden chest, or about to jump off a ravine.
Instead of creating the entire opening cinematic on a computer as it the norm these days, Magenta Software have boldly opted for something a little different. Lost Kingdom’s cut scene is a live action video of Hiro in the real world. As he explores, he is attacked by an evil Invizimal, which is done in CGI. It is a cool little deviation from what we expect, and aims to show the difference between the real world, and the cartoony Lost Kingdom when Hiro steps through the portal. Unfortunately, the clip features overly corny acting and cheap visuals to the point where I almost wish they took the standard route. Still, you can’t fault Magenta for running with the new idea, even if it stumbles along the way.
The game’s audio suffers in much the same way as its graphics. The sound effects and voice acting of the Invizimals is impressive end engaging, but the rest of the game sounds bland and uninspired in comparison. Every action in the game has recurring sound effects – every time you hit an enemy sounds the same, every time you climb a wall sounds the same, every time you jump sounds the same.
Invizimals also features a recurring, guiding voice that comes from Hiro’s wrist communicator. This voice serves much the same role as Navi or Fi from The Legend of Zelda games; explaining to Hiro where to go next and what he has to do in order to progress through the stage. The thing is that the game is incredibly linear, and all of these explanations make it feel like the game is hand-holding you even more than it already is.
Invizimals: The Lost Kingdoms has its fair share of problems, and the best way to describe it would be to say that it lacks polish. Repetitive visuals, audio and level design, combined with a laughably easy difficulty level and a sense of hand holding throughout make for an experience that I didn’t find too enjoyable. This is definitely a game geared towards a much younger audience, and they will likely be far more forgiving to many of the problems that are present and still get some enjoyment out of it. However, if you are looking for a gateway into the action/platformer genres, there are better titles out there.
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