|Release: September 30, 2014|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Fantasy Violence|
by Becky Cunningham
The console world could use more kid-friendly games, and what's more fun for kids than turning into awesome animals and going on a grand adventure? That's the premise of Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom, a classic-style 3D platformer starring a kid who turns into cool-looking fighting critters. Sadly, that concept is completely wasted on this poorly-designed, downright boring title.
Remember the original PlayStation era, when we suffered through a slew of shoddily designed licensed 3D platformers? Remember how people got tired of that formula very quickly, and nobody does it anymore? Well, Sony's Invizimals crew is bringing us a blast from the past complete with the clunky controls and horrible camera we all remember without fondness. Sure, the kids this game is aimed at don't remember those days, but is that any excuse to make the same design mistakes as the low-budget software of the past?
Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom tosses its player character, a boy named Hiro, into a mysterious world inhabited by bipedal animals based off real and mythological beasts from our world. Of course, everything has gone wrong in Invizimals land, which is under attack by a bunch of angry robots. The story is simple and bears an environmental message (though you won't get that until some hours into it), but it's delivered via voice acting that is often so ethnically stereotyped as to be offensive. Most of the game isn't really focused on the story, but on running around and beating things up in Invizimals forms, all of which have different abilities and are gained by challenging the appropriate Invizimal in a QTE battle.
If only running around and beating things up were more fun. While the game's controls aren't the absolute worst I've encountered, they are slow, clunky, and unreliable. Every Invizimal, no matter how supposedly lithe, fights with the speed and grace of a dazed rhinoceros. The platforming controls are slightly better, when they work. Unfortunately, standing on a slightly raised piece of terrain such as a cobblestone can cause the jump button to fail to operate. I had other times when the controls failed to operate, but that was the most common issue I found. Even worse than the clunky controls, though, is the completely uncontrollable fixed camera. It doesn't follow your character, so if you backtrack at all (which is frequently necessary), you're traveling nearly blind. It's never fun to fail a jump because the camera flipped on you partway through, and that sort of thing happens constantly in Invizimals.
All of this would be more problematic if the game hadn't set its difficulty level to “brain dead.” Enemies telegraph attacks at least a full second before actually attacking, and platforming puzzles are rendered un-puzzles because Hiro's guide and/or the tutorial text tell you exactly what to do every single time—even if you've done the exact same thing twenty times already. If I were one of the upper elementary kids that this game seems to be aimed at, I'd be offended by its assessment of my abilities and intelligence level. As it was, I was just extraordinarily bored by the entire thing.
Speaking of boredom, a poor reward system combines with the low difficulty level to make the game a snoozefest. Most platformers of this type have collectable items and secrets to find, but nearly the only thing to collect in The Lost Kingdom is currency. This currency is used to unlock new attacks for the Invizimals, even though special attacks are hardly needed to win the simple battles, and it's nearly always found in chests and urns that must be punched several times to break open. With sparse battles and sparser special collectables, you'll end up spending the majority of your gaming time punching boxes for currency you don't really even care about. It's a real let-down to battle the camera and discover an optional or secret area, only to see that it's filled with nothing but punchable boxes.