Making its debut across Europe back in 2009, over the past few years Invizimals has covertly grown from a seemingly one-off experiment to one of Sony’s most valuable handheld franchises. However, despite shifting heavy numbers across the continent, Invizimals has struggled to make a name for itself in Britain and the US. This is, in part, due to the platform.
Despite having a solid install base around the world, the PSP -especially in its twilight years- was outstripped by Nintendo’s software line-up at nearly every turn. Not only that, when it came to handheld gaming, the DS had always been more popular among younger audiences, Invizimals’ target demographic.
Featuring clever AR technology and a catalogue of collectible creatures, Invizimals has never lacked ambition or innovation, just a bit of exposure. And that’s exactly what Sony plans to give this up-and-coming series over the next year.
One part of its multi-faceted approach is a sequel to last year’s third instalment titled Invizimals: The Alliance. Set to launch early next year, it will mark the series’ debut on PlayStation Vita, yet retains all core features. Using the system’s built-in camera players will scour the real world for Invizimals before capturing them and training them through a series of mini-games and battles.
Not only does it look much better than its PSP predecessors, Alliance also harnesses smarter AR technology. When brought into the real-world, Invizimals will walk along surfaces and cling to walls in a way that is much more contextual. In other games, such as Reality Fighters, characters and objects simply float on an invisible platform, squandering much of the potential afforded by alternate reality.
Alliance’s best feature, however, is the interaction between players. Invizimals come in all shapes and sizes, some of which can be evolved in more powerful creatures and others incredibly rare. With Alliance, you are free to battle and trade both locally online as you attempt to collect all 150 Invizimals. Better still, these two systems are fully-compatible with the series’ upcoming PS3 debut.
- 2009: Invizimals
- 2010: Invizimals: Shadow Zone
- 2011: Invizimals: The Lost Tribes
- 2013:Invizimals Trading Cards
- 2013: Invizimals: The Alliance
- 2013: Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom
- 2013: Invizimals TV Show
- ????: Invizimals Figures
Slated to release within the same window, Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom will bring the franchise to home consoles in a less than conventional format. Instead of trapping monster in the real world you’ll transform into one with sixteen in total. At its core, The Lost Kingdom is a straight up brawler/platformer inheriting characters and lore from the Invizimals series. As an explorer, you’ll need to invoke the powers of several mighty creatures in order to tackle puzzles and defeat enemies. Again, this is aimed at a younger audience; combat is incredibly simple as are the puzzle and platform sections on offer.
As previously mentioned, there are crossovers between The Lost Kingdom and The Alliance. For multiplayer, the former will adopt the same battle and trading system featured in its handheld counterpart. The interconnection doesn’t stop there however.
In partnering with numerous companies, Sony is looking to expand the Invizimals brand beyond video games. It already has a deal in place with merch giants, Panini, spawning a series of collectible cards which have whipped up quite the following in Spain. We were told that when the team went hunting for Invizimals trading cards in Barcelona they couldn’t find the widely-stocked product anywhere; most retailers had completely sold out. Though not available in the UK just yet, Panini have plans to launch the range in August.
Boosters will include six individual cards, selling at roughly €1 a pop. Using an upcoming app for Vita, iOS, and Android, users will be able to upload their collections and even view 3D models of the creatures. These virtual cards can be traded without sacrificing paper copies, adding yet another dimension to the Invizimals empire.
Further down the line, there are also plans for a TV series. It’s already been pitched to a number of big names in the British circuit with a pilot looking likely for this November. Episodes will run at 26 minutes and, with 26 to watch through, already seems to have some longevity behind it.
It won’t be your bog-standard show, however. If there’s one thing we took away from Invizimals it’s that everything, no matter how big or small, is interactive. Whilst watching episodes small, non-intrusive AR patterns will appear and can be scanned into the Vita game itself for new unlocks upon completing a mini-game. Again, this feature uses smart AR technology which, by all accounts, belongs to the development team.
Sony’s emboldened approach to the franchise won’t turn heads among mature gamers, but offers youngsters another alternative to the shovelware they’re usually fed. What’s best about Invizimals is how invested its creators clearly are. With two games, a card set, and TV show on the way, the future is looking very bright indeed. And that’s without even mentioning the studio’s secret plans to introduce collectible figures. All we can say is that it won’t be another take on the Skylanders popular, albeit stagnating, template.