I Seem To Have An Invizimal Touch

Sony's E3 2010 booth was filled with eagerly anticipated titles like Killzone 3 and God of War: Ghost of Sparta, yet I made a beeline for PSP augmented reality Pokémon clone Invizimals. Why?

It's quite simple. After four straight E3 shows (six in total,) I've seen plenty of games like God of War and Killzone. Action games and first-person shooters are a dime a dozen, so even if the ones on display are spectacular, I tend to hone in on the odd-games-out, and Invizimals certainly counts.

Shipping this fall and bundled with the new PSP Camera, Invizimals is an augmented reality take on Pokémon-style gameplay. You still capture and battle monsters against a variety of non-player characters or human opponents through both infrastructure and ad hoc connections. You still strive to evolve the 40 creatures included in the game three times each, for a total of 120 Invizimals.

The difference lies in how you capture them.

Rather than travelling through a digital, on-screen world hunting for new creatures, the Invizimals are lurking somewhere in your house. In your place of business. At the mall. Anywhere.

The game uses color cues to help you find creatures. You'll be tasked to find a certain color in your home, with the PSP Camera attachment used to tell you whether you're getting hot or cold. Once the color is found, you slap down the capture card and the struggle begins.

Capturing Invizimals is more complicated than simply battling them into submission. Each creature is caught differently. One will fire missiles at the screen you must move to dodge. Once it's winded, you have to jolt the PSP forward, bashing the virtual critter with it in order to daze it. Then it's yours.

I played around a bit with a build of the game already loaded with all of the creatures. A plain white counter in front of me had a variety of colored squares placed on it, along with the game's sensor card. The card looks all fancy and digital, but really what Invizimals is looking for is a square shape to populate with your creature.

Once a square is found, your current creature comes to life on your screen, wandering about the counter top. Moving your hand close to it will cause it to jump back. Blowing into the PSP Camera's microphone will make it react. In the case of the cat-like Invizimal I was playing with, it blew back at me. Cheeky.

Battles take place on the counter as well. Your Invizimal and your opponent appear on either side of the square, and you get a variety of moves to choose from. Selecting a move causes your pet to act it out on screen. It's a great deal like Pokémon, only the creatures are actually performing the battle instead of reacting with canned attack effects.

The full game will feature a deep story mode, with in-game video cut scenes acting as your guide through the world of the Invizimals.

But the real joy of this game is watching the animals come to life, using something as simple as a top-mounted camera. It's the same camera the EyePet will use when it comes to the PSP, and will come bundled with the game when it launches this fall.

Don't get me wrong: I love my action adventure and first-person shooters as much as the next guy, but after being immersed in those experiences for so long, it's strange little games like Invizimals that offer something new and innovative that capture my heart.

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