Invizimals: Shadow Zone PSP
Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by: Novarama
Whilst you've been able to 'catch 'em all' on Sony's main rival in handheld gaming for many years now, the ability to do so on the PSP has now finally arrived. Invizimals: Shadow Zone allows you to find hidden invizimals in everyday items simply by scanning them with your PSP camera. Once captured, these invizimals can be used to fight against other invizimals. The game offers over 130 invizimals in total (some are just evolved forms of others however), a single-player campaign and even a multiplayer component too.
Your task in Invizimals: Shadow Zone is to travel around the world catching, customising and battling with invizimals. To capture an invizimal you simply need to point your PSP camera at a coloured surface. Once an invizimal has been detected you'll use the provided card to trap them and then follow a procedure that involves pressing the X button when various shapes are aligned and then performing various actions (which depends on the particular invizimal you're attempting to catch) to ultimately catch it.
The battle system in Shadow Zone is decent and easy to get to grips with. It's not actually a turn-based system and you are free to attack and defend at will. You'll have to keep your eye on your invizimal's health and stamina though. Stamina is depleted when you defend so it's not possible to simply defend throughout the course of a battle. You'll also have what's known as vectors to assist you during a battle and these are essentially special attacks and healing items. The battles don't have a great deal of depth but they are enjoyable.
Outside of the battles the actions isn’t quite so much fun. You'll see plenty of cut scenes featuring real life actors (including Brian Blessed, whose superb acting talent is woefully wasted here) and these are far too frequent and really bog the pace of the game down. You'll get to fight in tournaments, capture invizimals and rescue some friends. Some of it is OK but it's the battles and trying to build up an impressive collection of invizimals where most of the fun lies in the game.
The game supports both Ad-hoc and Infrastructure multiplayer gaming with support for two players to catch invizimals together. The problem is of course that you'll need a friend who has all of the required components (game, PSP and camera) in order to experience it for yourself. I wasn't in that fortunate position so I can't comment on what the multiplayer component of the game is actually like but it's certainly appreciated that the developers have seen fit to include some form of multiplayer content.
Unfortunately Invizimals: Shadow Zone isn't accessible for deaf gamers. The game cut scenes aren't subtitled meaning you'll miss out on all the dialogue they contain. Verbal messages you receive whilst attempting to catch invizimals aren't subtitled so you'll be completely unaware of them. When scanning to capture an invizimal you're told to point the camera to a particular coloured surface and you'll be completely oblivious to this advice. You do get basic text instructions on what to do to capture invizimals however, but sometimes this isn't enough. There are gauges to make you aware of such things as how much movement and noise you're making which certainly helps but it's far from being ideal. Mission goals and summaries are shown in text but there's a lot here that deaf gamers won't be aware of and ultimately there are too many times, particularly in the early stages of the game, when you'll simply be in the dark and that's far from ideal. In short it's not a game for deaf gamers unless you want a great deal of frustration.
Invizimals: Shadow Zone is certainly a game with a lot of promise. The basic idea of the game is actually pretty impressive and it's a much better use of the PSP camera than the EyePet game. I do wish there was more of an entertaining game here however. The game hasn't been designed with deaf people in mind and there are so many problems in regards to its accessibility that it's not a game I can recommend unless you want to feel frustrated and left in the dark about so many aspects of the game.