The PlayStation Eye has been somewhat neglected since its launch several years ago, receiving nowhere near the same level of support as its multi-million selling predecessor, the Eye Toy. With only a few PlayStation Network titles and The Eye of Judgement to its name, gamers can be forgiven for forgetting that the camera and microphone peripheral even exists. Now, that has all changed, as London Studio’s latest title, EyePet, proves that Sony is once again interested in motion games. But is the game all looks and no substance, or has EyePet truly crossed the boundary between game and reality?
The game opens with a stereotypically peculiar scientist who helps to set up the camera, and introduces the EyePet, making what could be a rather boring process rather fun. The camera must be placed around knee level and angled towards the ground, something that requires approximately 4ft by 3ft of empty space, as well as decent lighting.
The creature, a strange mixture between a monkey, a cat and a dog, appears on the screen within what is a mirror image of your living room. After clapping, nudging and blow-drying the being out of its egg, the pet pops out into the new world in a touching scene that sets the pace of eager discovery which is mostly kept up throughout the game.
Over the course of the next fifteen fictional days, players look after the pet, washing, feeding, and styling it, as well as playing with it in various mini-games. The day-to-day care can be slightly repetitive, such as rubbing shampoo into its back for the eighth time, but it does present the most authentic representation of an actual pet in the entire game. As a pet simulator, the game is far from realistic, but that is an advantage for the title, distilling the best bits of owning a pet – the cuteness, the lovability, and the fun – without all the mess and work of a real animal. Most of the game is instead an assortment of trials and games that both are an awe technologically as well as a joy to play.
From a technical point of view, the game is truly amazing, breaking boundaries in augmented reality and virtual interaction. There are moments that really cause a double take, as the EyePet reacts in an amazingly, and sometimes unnervingly, realistic way, such as when it sizes up players’ moving fingers, circles, and pounces. The reason the pet really causes such a level of immersion and realism is not the game’s level of graphics, which are incredibly good (although the fur physics are rather too bouncy), but instead the amount of detail that has been put into the creature’s personality. As the EyePet squeaks, meows, and yips its way through the game, it will act within its surroundings much like a real animal, and react to the stimulus of a stroking hand or a dismissing nudge in an equally animalistic way.
Another way in which the game proves its unrivaled level of interaction is in teaching the pet to draw. Draw a picture with a felt tip pen, or a thick crayon, onto a piece of white paper, and the EyePet will copy it down onto the screen with near picture perfect quality – as long as you have sufficient lighting. This is made even more astounding when drawing either a car or a plane (other objects get unlocked later in the game). Not only is the image replicated on screen, it is brought to life. This ability gives rise to a myriad of different mini-games, from flying the pet into space, or driving him around a course that appears in the room. The sheer enjoyment of seeing players’ creations come to life on screen is alone an amazing feeling worthy of praise.
Unlike a real pet, EyePet can’t die, and if players forget to feed or wash him, he just ends up smelly, weak, and hungry. This makes the game more child friendly and rather more relaxing, but it does cause the player to lose the sense of urgency that can be found in more realistic pet games. This is especially so because the creature’s statistics reset each time you play. However, to ensure that players look after their charges, the game offers both trophies and items of apparel for the creature to wear as bonuses for good care.
Much like LittleBigPlanet’s Sackboy, the Eyepet can be customized and dressed to look like various cute and cuddly things, as well as having his hair length, color and pattern styled. This process helps personalize the pet and make him look like what, and who, players want, something which is already being expanded with downloadable content on the PlayStation Store.
However, the enjoyment of each of the well made mini-games, from drawing, to games of Snap (Slapjack) or photography contests, is muted by how they are all repeated numerous times, often with little variation. The repetition can draw some of the excitement from the game, but mainly EyePet does manage to provide unique and exciting experiences throughout the majority of the game.
Another negative for the title is its long loading times, where, upon asking for an item, both player and pet are left staring at the big bluish pit in the floor from which everything spawns. This problem is especially accentuated by how the game asks the player to perform certain tasks that require several loading screens to complete, such as having a photograph of the pet in a bumble-bee costume in the garden. This means that the styling area, the clothes, and the garden must all be loaded.
Additionally, the game tries to limit how long it is played, and after a few virtual days’ worth of mini-games, the scientist says that the EyePet is too tired to continue, and the game no longer allows players to continue playing new levels, although free play is still available. This can be seen as an advantage for parents who want to cap the playing time of their children, but also as an annoyance for those who just want to play the game. The way to work around this problem is to quit the title and set the clock of the PlayStation a day forward.
EyePet is a game that is most definitely aimed at children, and kids will love the game to bits, but it can certainly appeal to adults. Sure, people may find the scientist slightly patronizing or feel embarrassed by the singing games, but the core of the title is solid entertainment. While the game is held back by occasional repetition and long loading games, the sheer variety of gameplay and the uniqueness of the breath-taking technology and level of interaction make EyePet a immensely enjoyable game, and a great gift for Christmas.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
Great for both children and adults
Can become repetitive