I am one of those mothers who enjoys playing kids games just as much as those which are meant for adults. Games that are designed for children bring a charm, a sense of wonderment, and a cheerfulness that I genuinely enjoy, and subsequently, love to share with my own kids as we play together. I’ve been a gamer ever since the NES first came into my house, and incidentally, my own mum became one too! I still remember waking up one morning to go to school, and as my mum called me into the lounge room, I walk in to see her sitting in the same spot with a controller in her hands, exactly as she was when I went bed the previous night. Excitedly, she proceeds to show me how she found two magic whistles in Super Mario Bros 3, and taking into account this was the early 90’s and there was no internet available, this really was an exciting discovery for us! In fact, it was like this for many years, and some of my fondest memories as a child are playing games along side my mother!
Naturally, since video games were so present in my own life, I wanted to share this form of entertainment with my own children as well. And honestly, being a gamer parent to little children is so much fun in my opinion! Not only do children’s games teach hand-eye coordination, problem solving, patience, as well as increasing their reading ability, we also get to go on adventures together, help each other in tough situations and have fun as a family. My son, who is 5 years old, is a natural to gaming and is a fast learner. He is very good with problem solving, adapts quickly, and excels at any game you put in front of him. On the other hand, my 4 year old daughter is more of a casual gamer. She likes games with characters she can relate to and a story she can follow; otherwise she loses interest and starts up a game of Angry Birds instead. When I told them that we will be “testing” a new game, they were very excited to be participating. And as such, this brings us to our review of Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom.
Invizimals makes its debut on the PlayStation 3 as a 3D adventure game. The formula for Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom is reminiscent of previous Invizimals titles available on the PSP, although, I would just like to clarify that this is actually my first introduction to the series. Players will begin the game by taking on the role of Hiro, an adventurous young explorer who uncovers a magic portal that teleports him to the hidden land of the Invizimals. He soon discovers that this land is under attack from a terrible army of robotic creatures, so naturally, it is up to him to save the day. Along the way, Hiro encounters fantastical beasts known as Invizimals who lend their unique powers and abilities to the young boy by giving him power to transform into 16 of the most popular Invizimals in order to solve puzzles and battle his way through ancient ruins and lush forests to save The Lost Kingdom.
What I noticed while playing was that Hiro didn’t struggle at any point in the story, and there was no character growth, which was disappointing. I’d expect to see conflict and obstacles for Hiro to overcome to show kids that hard work and determination pay off, but no, Hiro just continued along his path with ease. Additionally, there was no sense at all of an “Evil Guy” pulling the strings and causing chaos, simply thousands of robots in need of panel beating. So when my son asked “Who’s the evil guy?”, I just stared at him bewilderingly and said “You know what, I don’t know?” Either there is no “Evil Guy”, just a bunch of rouge A.I, or somehow both of us completely missed the mentioning of this elusive antagonist. Which brings me to say that the story wasn’t very memorable, just the basics stand out, and the kids didn’t seem to be engrossed at any point in the story or eager to find out what happens next. To them it was more so about discovering the next Invizimal and battling with them in Arena Mode.
Straight off the bat, the kids and I immediately thought of Ben 10 when Hiro morphed into his first Invizimal pal, Ocelotl. To be honest, comparing Invizimals to Ben 10 became a nasty habit we couldn’t seem to get rid of for the first section of the game. Once we got over the comparisons, the game started to feel like it’s own entity with unique ideas mixed with familiar concepts from the likes of both Pokemon and Ben 10. The Battle Arena was fun as we used the cross platform play function which is the highlight of the game in my opinion. If you have a copy of The Invizimals: The Alliance on Playstation Vita, you can swap bonus items and engage in four player battle royals. Otherwise, there is the option of online battles against friends and the standard local multiplayer mode as well.
I’m just going to come right out and say it, the control mechanics were horrible. So many times I would end up behind a ledge with no way to see my Invizimal or what I was doing with it as the camera angles were far too restrictive, and I just had to guess what I was doing to get out of my predicament. At one point, the game even glitched on me as I was trying to climb horizontally across a vine covered wall, and my Invizimal got stuck mid-air facing away from the wall, which sadly meant that there was no way to unfreeze what had just happened without restarting the game and trying again. Additionally, trying to backtrack after a missed item became frustrating because the camera angles made it hard to judge the distance between the suspended platforms.
In fact, my daughter became increasingly annoyed because her Invizimal kept tripping and getting stuck on pavement cracks in the ground which are scattered all throughout the linear designated pathways. On the other hand, catching a new Invizimal involves a simple quick-time-event, and this seemed to work well as the kids found it easy to do while watching the epic battles on the screen. Later in the game, there comes a time where Hiro takes a ride on a dragon type Invizimal, and sadly, my excitement was immediately quashed as soon as the thing took flight. You don’t control the dragon itself, but rather a target used for blasting enemies and item containers with dragon fireballs. The target was hard to control, felt over sensitive, and since your dragon friend is a fast flyer, it becomes hard to see what you are shooting at, especially if you are trying to look for items along the way.
The first thing that stood out as soon when I started a new game was the live action cutscene, which is something you don’t see often these days. It gave the game an essence of life, and the actors were decent and believable. However, once you enter the world of the Invizimals, the game is entirely CGI. The graphics are decent, if somewhat on the basic side. Although, during small cutscenes, parts on the characters flicker which makes the game look rushed and a bit cheap. Additionally, there isn’t much texture in the graphics, which also let it down visually. The levels are laid out well and give the effect of a vast world, but at times, the scenery comes across as a bit repetitive, and that is a bit of minor complaint on my behalf. Overall all, both myself and the kids enjoyed the look of the game and the atmosphere it created. The music complimented each area we played through and didn’t come across as annoying or obnoxious like some children’s games these days do to the point that I’m telling the kids to turn down the volume because mummy’s head is about to implode from high pitch noises played at a ridiculous pace. Instead, music was calming and produced a nice tone that was suited to each area.
Honestly, despite some obvious flaws in the game, Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom is a simple and fun experience that kids between the ages of 6 – 12 years will most likely enjoy. It works as a great introduction to gaming for the young ones as it is not difficult to play and will provide many hours of fun filled adventure. Additionally, gathering all the trophies will enhance the challenge for the older kids and also provide a sense of accomplishment if they can obtain the platinum trophy for 100% achievement. As an adult gamer, there were quite a few things in this game that I didn’t particularly like, and technically speaking, it’s not very proficient. However, in saying that, I could still absolutely recommend this title after watching my kids enjoy their time playing it. Knowing the content in games that today’s kids like, it’s a game that’s respectfully worth a spot on the “kids game shelf” in your home.
Note: This review was based on the PS3 version of the game, and provided to us by Sony Computer Entertainment Australia.