Impressions: Invizimals

While conducting some tests for SCEI, a researcher at Sony's HQ in Japan realized that the PSP Go!Cam could see a visual spectrum far beyond human vision. Scattered throughout the world is a mystical energy that only the PSP camera could detect. Clearly, this is the beginning of something big!

However, what if this energy fell into the wrong hands? Couldn't someone harness the energy for the purposes of evil? What if someone were to create a weapon with this mysterious energy?

This meta-story sets the stage for Sony's upcoming camera-required PSP game, Invizimals. Those lucky to see the behind-closed-doors demonstration at E3 were charmed by its high-tech devilry and innovative concept that many have been quick to call "Pokemon ... on crack."
We're not sure if Sony made some kind of blood sacrifice, but this year's E3 proved PSP has a lot more power than we were led to initially believe. From MotorStorm to LittleBigPlanet, Sony's handheld is now more a "portable PS3" and than a PS2. While other games focus on graphics, Invizimals wows through the most advanced recreation of "augmented reality" seen on a handheld. The PSP can take a live feed of the real world and instantly juxtapose interactive 3D graphics atop. To think -- Sony was touting this technology on PS3 just over a year ago!

It's easy to be drawn into Invizimals due to technology which we, quite honestly, didn't think was possible on a system with a 333MHz processor. As impressive as it is, we can't really get too excited about a tech demo. Thankfully, Invizimals is shaping up to be a fun game as well, filled with tons of interesting, creative ideas.

Let's get back to the story. There's energy all around the world, ready to be picked up by the PSP camera. Perhaps this energy is living on your laptop, or the lamp next to you, or on that half-eaten sandwich sitting in your room. Looking through the viewfinder on the PSP screen, players will be able to search and look for new hotspots using a radar-esque system. Get close to a strong energy source, and you'll be able to throw down a real-life magic card. Nothing will happen in the real world, but you'll see a critter atop the magic card on your PSP screen.

You won't have to throw any Pokeballs to capture this creature. Instead, players must prepare for a much more ... physical experience. For example, you may have to quickly slap the creature with your hands. You may have to clap, tickle, or lure. The instructions appear on the PSP screen as you try to interact with the digitally created object through your PSP viewfinder.

The process of interacting with, and capturing, the various Invizimals can only be described as "magical." If we weren't bitter, jaded gamers, we'd want to believe in the magic of this world, one where hidden creatures live all around us. This high-concept wouldn't be possible without state-of-the-art tech, and thankfully, it appears the PSP is able to render the creature and the real world without a problem. Once captured, you can summon any of your collected creatures to the magic card. Hold the card close to the PSP, and you'll be able to see it in close detail. Rotate the card around, and you'll be able to see all around it. The 1:1 translation of the card in your hand to what appears on the PSP screen really shouldn't be possible -- but hey, we didn't sign a deal with the devil. Sony did.

Of course, once you've captured some critters, what else can you do besides have them duke it out in deathmatch-styled battles? Invizimals battles should also be familiar to any Pokemaniac, like yours truly. Your monsters are assigned to different elements, and you'll have to use those qualities to your advantage. Battles are conducted through simple menu commands ... with the exception of special attacks which require user interactivity. For example, you may have to blow into your PSP to create a wind gust. Or, you may have to shake the system to create an earthquake. You may have to cast your shadow to create a storm, or you may have to write a spell by aiming your system carefully. Once again, the physicality of the game really adds to the "magical" quality of the game.

We cannot stop gushing about Invizimals, as it stands as one of the best (and completely unnoticed) games at E3 this year. As a former Pokemon nut, it's great to see the monster-collecting genre finally get such a refreshing twist. And with proper Infrastructure support for battling and trading, Invizimals may succeed at convincing us to "catch 'em all."

While it's easy to get excited for Invizimals, there are a few caveats that we must note. First of all, the game hasn't been officially "announced" for US release. Why is that? Well, there's that ol' problem of not having a PSP camera here in the States. Without the peripheral, there's no way this game can actually work. Here's another problem: the current PSP camera won't work on the PSP go. Ouch. We can only hope that Sony marketing comes up with a good solution -- sad to see a solid first-party offering get derailed by what we can only describe as completely idiotic product development.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.