InviZimals: The Alliance: A great buy for kids

Platform reviewed: PS Vita

I was worried about InviZimals: The Alliance when I began playing it. I didn’t know very much about it, but it quickly became clear to me that InviZimals is a game designed for kids. At the time of writing, I am 24 years old. I’m not a kid. I worried about reviewing this game because I wasn’t sure I could review it fairly from an adult’s perspective. Let’s start simple.

InviZimals is an adventure game that depends on the PlayStation Vita’s AR Play cards—the funny little cards with big QR-code-looking things on them that come with each console. AR means Augmented Reality—what you get when you superimpose a game over the real world. Indeed, the story is driven by live actors, particularly professor Hiro Nakamura (no, not the one from Heroes), who serves as your guide throughout the game.

Past the intro and tutorials, InviZimals begins to feel a little like Pokémon. You are tasked with finding and capturing a hundred unique InviZimals, little creatures that live in the real world via the PlayStation Vita and its AR Play cards. First you must use the AR cards to build structures at your base. This happens in the form of a puzzle minigame where the building is in pieces, and you must use a combination of an AR card and the Vita’s touch screen and rear touch pad to put the pieces together within a time limit.

Once you build the right structures at your base, you can meet InviZimals. You capture them by placing an AR card pretty much wherever you want and aiming the PlayStation Vita’s rear camera at it. The Vita handles the AR cards miraculously. You can aim at it from any angle, and as long as it sees the card, it creates a little 3D creation on top of it—an InviZimal and its immediate surroundings, a completed building, or an incomplete building surrounded by floating pieces. If an aerial view doesn’t suit you, aim at the card from the front, and you will face your InviZimal (or whatever) head on.

Capturing an InviZimal is like a minigame in itself. Each InviZimal requires something different of you. The Cyclops, for instance, has you play a game of “Statue,” where you must collect floating gems by moving only when the InviZimal’s back is turned, and freezing in place when it looks at you. Another will sing and then ask you to sing the same notes in the right order. Whatever your task may be, complete it and the InviZimal is yours.

Once you capture an InviZimal, you can name it, and train it in the battle arena. Different InviZimals know different types of attacks (again, much like in Pokémon). Memorizing the different kinds of attacks will help you in battle. Defeat other InviZimals (the CPU’s or a friend’s via multiplayer) to make your InviZimal stronger and unlock goodies such as multiplayer arenas.

InviZimals’ gameplay is simple and fun. An adult may find it inconvenient to have to get up and find appropriately colored walls or place AR cards everywhere, but kids would enjoy the engaging interactivity and interesting gameplay. Novarama made the game big—again, there are a hundred different InviZimals to capture and play with—and if InviZimals manages to hook you, there’s plenty to do.

Since InviZimals is driven by live action, there is acting, and if you’re looking for stellar acting, you’re in the wrong place. This was one hurdle for me in reviewing a game for children. The acting feels hokey and deliberate, more so than many children’s programs I remember watching. At the same time, action happens around you, and the actors in the game address you directly as though you are standing there with them—which is probably why the acting felt strange to me. It almost felt unnecessary, like simply me directly what to do and let me do it rather than set up this whole scene around it would just save everyone a whole lot of time. It didn’t help that PlayStation Vitas are used for everything in the InviZimals universe as though they were iPads, which made me roll my eyes a little, even though it made sense since the player would be using a Vita.

The problem with my opinion there is that kids like that sort of thing. With my kid goggles on, I can easily see how one might be drawn into the world that developer Novarama has created. I can see how one might enjoy the sense of discovery and adventure that the actors create for you, and how cool it would be to be put right in the middle of it all with your trusty do-it-all Vita at your side.

What I dislike most about InviZimals is the control scheme. InviZimals makes absolutely certain to use almost every form of input the PlayStation Vita has to offer, but it sometimes makes the mistake of forcing you to use its touch screen instead of the physical buttons on either side of the console. As a gamer used to holding a handheld with both hands and using its buttons, I found this frustrating. I would guess that Novarama assumed that a touch interface would better fit a highly interactive AR game, but sometimes simple is better, and forcing gamers to use one type of controls when the other is sometimes easier and more natural for them is a mistake. When you’re into a game, the last thing you want is to find that your normal method of input does not work and you have to do something else instead. There goes the immersion.

In all, InviZimals is a good buy for kids. It’s a game with lots of different characters and lots to do, and will keep kids busy and entertained. Adults may even find the AR technology and use of various inputs interesting and the world of little InviZimals rather charming. The way Novarama created this world and interlaced it with our own is wonderful, and with technology like Project Morpheus on the horizon, it’s easy to wonder what other amazing things are in store for gamers.




The Final Word

InviZimals is a good buy for kids. It’s a game with lots of different characters and lots to do, and will keep kids busy and entertained. Adults may even find the AR technology and use of various inputs interesting and the world of little InviZimals rather charming.