Released to tie in with the PlayStation 3’s Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom, and an upcoming Invizimals television show and toy line, The Alliance is a return to the series’ portable roots. While comparison’s between Invizimals and Pokemon have always been easy and justifiable to make, Sony’s version of battling monsters has typically been based upon AR technology, and for better and worse, this latest entry takes this idea further.
The Alliance is a game of catching, upgrading and fighting monsters in order to win tournaments, wrapped in a similarly dull narrative to The Lost Kingdom: big, evil corporation doing evil stuff with evil robots, endangering nature, yada yada yada. Essentially, it’s all just an excuse for monsters to have a scrap, which I don’t necessarily have a problem with.
The main meat of the game is the battles, but before you can get to that stage, you need to catch some Invizimals to fight with, and it’s these sections that prove to be both the best and worst elements of The Alliance. There are multiple ways to catch Invizimals, all within the realm of Augmented Reality, and all of them absolutely impossible/inappropriate to do when outside of the house.
You see, as clever as the AR in The Alliance is (and it is very clever indeed), it all feels like an elaborate tech demo. Impressively, some creatures can be caught just by pointing the Vita at a table, floor or wall. Some require you to dust off your Vita’s AR cards and lay them out in front of you, while others require you to perform more annoying tasks such as making lots of noise, pointing your Vita’s camera at an item of a requested colour, or by waving your Vita around to follow a creature’s trail, amongst other tasks.
Yes, they’re all creative ways of using the admittedly underutilised capabilities of the system, but ultimately they only end up in prohibiting progress through the game. I mean that literally: there were days where I couldn’t progress because I wasn’t in an area with enough light or room to catch anything. I couldn’t even start the game when I wanted to, because the first time I booted up The Alliance, I was on a bus in the wee hours of the morning, so it was too dark to get past the tutorial.
But once you’re over the rigmarole of snagging beasts, the rest of the game feels quite flat in comparison, as you take control of your Invizimals in various 1 vs. 1 or Tournament battles. Each character has its own range of four abilities, which all have a cooldown when used and, in addition, you also have an endurance meter that drops when you use an attack or block. A depleted endurance meter will exhaust your monster for a little while, leaving you vulnerable to attacks.
Sadly, there is little depth to the combat aspect itself, with a player able to win by using the same tactics over and over again. If there’s ever a point where an enemy overpowers you too much, then simply grind some easier enemies for XP and try again until you succeed.
Still, the game is presented rather well, with simple menus and bold looking assets. Once you’re in the right location for some Invizimal catching, it really is impressive to see creatures interacting with the real world. Sharing many of the same cutscenes as the PlayStation 3’s The Lost Kingdom, they still feel rather disconnected from the game itself, feeling like an afterthought rather than tying the gameplay together. You can also expect more Brian Blessed narration, and when has that ever been a bad thing?
VERDICT: Invizimals: The Alliance is the perfect example of a game held back by the very elements that set it apart from its peers. The creativity and technology involved with the catching of Invizimals is great, but there isn’t enough of a game built around that aspect – other than the monster fighting, which can get rather repetitive. But even with its mildly tedious nature, it’s still infinitely more enjoyable than The Lost Kingdom.
DECENT. A 6/10 indicates that, while this game could be much better, it still has a fair amount to offer the player. It might be an interesting title sabotaged by its own ambition, or a game denied greater praise by some questionable design choices. Don’t avoid it outright, but approach it with caution.
Review code provided by publisher.