previews\ Jun 4, 2009 at 8:00 pm

Invizimals - PSP - Preview

E3 2009 PreviewE3 2008 GameZone Previews

The pocket monster fad was quite the sight to behold. Kids all over the world became enamored in these tiny creatures, which seemingly had no purpose in life but to look cute and battle each other. While Pokemon, Yuh-Gi-Oh, and several others are still astoundingly popular, not much has been done to advance this genre over the past decade. Thankfully, that is exactly what Sony and Novarama are looking to do with Invizimals for the PlayStation Portable. And the best part? You don't need to move all that far to find the creatures that inhabit this world, as they happen to live in the very room that you are sitting right now. 

Invizimals utilizes the PSP's camera attachment, which snaps to the top of the portable console. It appears as if a Sony engineer in Tokyo has discovered that the PSP camera is more sensitive than the human eye and can therefore see life forms that are living right underneath our noses. After watching a 'live' video message from the scientist, you are tasked with locating some of these critters in your very own home. To find them, you need to walk around your house, your friend’s house, or any location that you have access to while watching the camera feed on the PSP screen closely. When you get near an Invizimal, the screen will begin to pulse as the sensor picks up their signal. Once the screen flashes red, you are near enough to capture them. You throw down your trap—a small, star-shaped object—on the surface in front of you. If you picked the right spot, an Invizimal will appear on top of the trap on your PSP screen, looking as if he is right in front of you. 

Invizimals PSP screenshots

Once the critter is visible, you can move the PSP all around him. The game's software keeps him (or her) firmly planted on the card as if they were really there, and the developer even picked up the card in front of us to show that the creature would now be standing in the palm of his hand. The way that the software implants the Invizimals into the video feed is seamless, as the developer moved the camera 360 degrees around the trap and the monster stayed in place. You can also interact with the little guy in a number of ways, demonstrated by the monster getting scared when the developer yelled “boo” in his direction. At this point, you are tasked with catching the Invizimal by performing a simple minigame. Some examples that were shown was swatting at him, shaking the PSP, and even yelling into the camera's mic, but more will exist within the full game. Once you have captured an Invizimal, they will appear in your inventory and be ready for battle. 

The design of the creatures is in line with previous pocket monster titles, but Invizimals has added a bit to this as well. By continuously using the same creature in battle, you can upgrade their skill and evolve their form. We were shown the evolution of a single Invizimal, which starts as a cute and cuddly ice critter and ends up as a hulking abominable brute that you probably don't want to mess with. When in battle—which was described as 'real-time tactical combat by the developer—the PSP's face buttons trigger attacks that you carry out by performing some kind of motion. Examples that were shown including blowing into the camera to trigger an ice storm, waving your arm in front of the camera to send blasts of fire, and casting a shadow on the playing field to cause a lightning storm. The fighting looked fast and intense, as the player had to constantly cast spells and throw attacks to keep the other creature at bay. The PSP can be moved at any time, allowing you to view the action from any angle. In the end, the developer destroyed the AI Invizimal, and racked up some nice experience points to boot. 

In the end, Invizimals left me fairly impressed. The idea that everything in your environment could possibly unlock content in the game is clever, and the developer suggested that different times/locations would produce new Invizimals that were unable to be discovered in your home. The game will have over twenty single player missions as well as Ad-Hoc and Infrastructure multiplayer modes. There will also be an online bartering system that allows you to trade Invizimals with players all over the world, just in case you feel the desire to “catch 'em all.” 

Invizimals ships in the UK this Fall, though no North American release information has yet been made available. The PSP camera will come bundled with the game, as will a trap.

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