Do you remember Tamagotchi, the stupidly addictive hand-held digital pet that made its maker a fortune in the 90’s? If so, you’ll be instantly familiar with the concept of EyePet, which is essentially a modern day take on that time-consuming, some would say time-wasting, activity of nurturing, feeding, playing, cleaning and loving a pet that actually doesn’t exist. Technology has obviously advanced significantly since Bandai’s tiny egg-shaped computer, as have gamers’ expectations, so EyePet represents the future of what can now be achieved in the pet simulation genre. EyePet’s biggest selling point is its promise to blur the boundaries between on-screen entertainment and reality.
EyePet does that fairly impressively by making a virtual pet appear to interact with you in the comfort of your own living room. When the furry, ape-like creature hatches from his egg, jumps onto your T.V screen, but appears to sit there as if he were right in your home space, you’ll probably initially be quite excited. After naming our pet "Samson," feeding, showering and then stroking him lovingly to sleep our first reaction was that children are going to absolutely love this endearing, playful creature. However, after a couple of hours of pampering and exercising “Samson,” despite enjoying some brilliant and charming moments together, we became frustrated by the problems that have occurred as a result of the clumsy motion-sensing functionality of the PlayStation Eye.
The only time prior to EyePet that we’ve spent any quality time using our PlayStation Eye camera has been to upload videos of ourselves murdering popular songs on SingStar, so it is nice to be able to put its motion-sensing capabilities and microphone into effect; even if does inadvertently end up being the game’s downfall, as well as its unique selling point. When the PlayStation Eye works and your furry friend responds to your commands EyePet is brilliant, but when it fails to recognize your gestures it’s excruciatingly frustrating.
EyePet begins with a series of well-produced video tutorials that help you to set up your room ready for the birth of your EyePet. Placing the camera at knee height and ensuring that you have decent lighting in the room, as well as clearing a space on the floor where your virtual pet can run around free from obstruction, are the first set of instructions you have to follow. The PlayStation Eye captures what it sees on the T.V. so you'll see yourself sitting in front of the screen waiting for your pet to arrive. After placing the "magic card" on the floor, which comes boxed with the game, the EyePet appears as an egg sitting between your legs, ready to be hatched. After rocking the virtual egg with your hands, flapping at thin air in front of the camera, the EyePet is born. A word of warning though: the EyePet loves natural daylight. In fact he loves it so much that when we've tried to play with him in the evening he hasn’t wanted to respond to a good chunk of our commands under artificial lighting; that’s despite us plugging in two extra lamps in the living room to comply with game's request for ample lighting.
The gameplay in EyePet involves completing daily objectives. As well as using your hands to interact with your EyePet, you also use the aforementioned “magic card." You pick up the card and point it at the camera and on-screen it transforms into a variety of physical objects, including the likes of a baby’s bottle so you can feed him, a hairdryer so you can dry him after a shower, or a trampoline that he can leap about on to get some exercise. You can then tilt and move the magic card in front of the camera and your actions are translated on-screen. Similar to the Nintendogs set of videogames, EyePet is all about tending to the needs of your creature, giving him the required love, exercise, food and stimulation on a daily basis. As you progress you unlock rewards so that you customize your pet and you unlock further tasks that get more bizarre in nature. Kids will probably love the vast array of outfits and the fairly in-depth customization options. This is a family-friendly game after all which isn’t designed in any way to test your gaming skills.
Your EyePet does do some amazing things, some of which have left us speechless. You can draw a picture on a piece a paper, put it in front of the camera and he'll draw that picture. After scribbling a fairly basic picture of a car on a scrap of paper, "Samson" drew it, turned it into a 3D object and then proceeded to chase it around the room. He'll jump over your hand, leap in the air when you wiggle your fingers, or jump over a ball that's rolling around on your carpet. He's a real cheeky character and he'll often surprise you by doing things like jumping on your lap and looking at you all lovingly. Though "Samson" only ever appears on the T.V. screen the imagery at times is so vivid that there have been a few occasions where, stupidly, we’ve had a quick sneak peak on the floor just to double check that he really isn't in our living room.
Objectives in EyePet are split into different categories: feeding, play-time , exercise and cleanliness, but there's also mini-games to get stuck into together including bowling and an innovative side game that involves controlling a plane across the screen and popping balloons with your EyePet sitting in the pilot's seat. The side games are a highlight of an otherwise menial set of tasks that you have to carry out. The Sim-like nurturing of your pet is fun a while, but it's actually rather pointless. The fact that he never really evolves or shows signs of neglect means that you never really feel like the game is going anywhere. And once you've completed all the challenges there's little reason to go back and play again, other than to unlock trophies.
For all the things that your EyePet does brilliantly, and there are many, there are just as many things that he does incorrectly, like draw a picture that is nothing like the one you drew, or run around in circles when he should be jumping in the air. The PlayStation Eye just doesn't seem to respond correctly on a consistent basis, which can make your time together very frustrating. There's certainly potential for the EyePet franchise, and there's no doubt that young kids are going to be very excited when they first see the furry ape sitting in their living room. Likewise, kids and adults will be amazed at some of things he can do, but the technology is too inconsistent to get any long-term enjoyment out of it and the gameplay has no real direction. Still, we expect EyePet to be a big seller this Christmas, just don’t expect the fun to last more than a couple of hours.
|EyePet Review by Steven Williamson|
-The Final Word-
Your EyePet does some amazing things, but the tech is so inconsistent that you'll want to slap him just as much as stroke him.