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'Invizimals: Shadow Zone': Awkward and repetitive

Imagine combining Pokemon or Digimon — or any other role-playing game based on creature/monster battles — with a touch of augmented reality and what you get is “Invizimals: Shadow Zone.”

This new E-rated game developed by Novarama for the PlayStation Portable is certainly an interesting concept for a game, but by the time I finished playing I found a lot of the ideas awkward and repetitive.

The objective is to capture, collect and battle with these fictitious creatures. Players also aim to amass sparks, the in-game currency used to increase health and stamina and add special attacks.

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How this game differs from the typical monster-battle RPG is that instead of catching the invizimal in the digital environment of the game, the player uses the accessories that come with the game to see and catch an invizimal in the real world.

I began by attaching the miniature camera onto my PSP. Included in the bundle is a special “trap card” that works with the camera to detect and capture invizimals.

To use the trap card you must find a specific colored surface that the game dictates. Once you find it, set your trap by placing the card over the surface. A creature should be detected, and a random puzzle should follow in order to capture it. Make sure not to lose or toss this card, as you won’t be able to catch invizimals without it.

Finding the proper colored surface to set the trap cards was the most cumbersome part. Spending 10 minutes looking for a red surface made it difficult to get into the game, and I’d have felt silly walking around in public with my PSP and camera. It would have made sense for the developers to include some kind of color palette cards. The in-game battle system is a little more conventional, consisting of a mix of turn-based and active battle systems. Each invizimal is based on a certain type (fire, ice, jungle, rock, ocean, etc.) that gives it strengths and vulnerabilities.

Visually, the game is quite interesting; having animated creatures interact with the real-world environment creates a unique look. The battle music is simple and upbeat enough to help keep the player engaged.

The game also includes an online mode where you can pit your invizimal against another player’s. But you and your opponent will be looking at two very different scenes, because each player sees the characters fighting in whatever environment that player’s camera is seeing. It’s interesting to think how different two players’ experiences could be.

Bottom line: C- Overall, it’s clear “Invizimals” is geared toward younger gamers who are fans of creature-battle RPGs, but the novelty of the augmented reality quickly wears off, leaving a cumbersome, awkward game that at times can have you wandering around like an idiot.

Platform: PlayStation Portable

Online: www.invizimals.com

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