My column in Friday’s newspaper was a review of Sony’s new motion controller, the PlayStation Move, plus short writeups of four Move launch titles. I’ll be doing things a bit differently on the blog. I’ve already written longer posts on the Move hardware and on launch titles “Sports Champions” and “Start the Party!” Here, I review “EyePet” a game that makes heavy use of the PlayStation Eye camera.
A review of “KungFu Riders” will follow Tuesday.
While “Start the Party,” uses the camera to take players’ photos and record introductory audio, pet simulator “EyePet” (rated E, $40) creates an experience unlike anything you’ll find on the Wii, namely because it makes heavy use of the PlayStation Eye camera. The camera films you in front of your console, puts you on the screen and adds the eponymous EyePet into the mix.
Similar to the “EyePet” games released for the PS2’s EyeToy camera, this latest game lets players interact with a cute little virtual pet, who looks like a cross between a monkey and a cat. You’ll use the Move controller to conjure up toys and props, but you’ll also interact with your hands as well as your voice.
When you first start “EyePet,” you’ll give him a name, play with him, feed him, bathe him and style his fur. The different activities you can engage in with your EyePet are broken up into days, which serves to introduce different types of gameplay in manageable increments.
My wife and I thought the EyePet was a cute, fun little diversion, but my sessions with the game made me feel kind of strange. On the one hand, I really appreciated the technology behind the game as well as its family-friendly design. But I had a hard time getting into it because our two real-life cats were so curious about what we were doing that they kept lying down in the EyePet’s play area, pawing at the Move controller and generally looking for an entry into the proceedings.
Unlike other Move games, “EyePet” requires you to clear a decent-sized chunk of floor space, where you’ll interact with your pet. You’re basically sitting on the floor while you’re playing, which makes you irresistable to cats and dogs. So when my cats came wandering into the play area, it just didn’t feel right to ignore them so that I could play with a fake, digitized pet.
“EyePet” is a cool idea, but it might be best-suited to families who can’t have pets, either because of leases, allergies or time commitment. I’d also recommend picking it up for a young child who’s starting to nag about wanting a pet but maybe isn’t quite old enough to tackle all of the responsibilities. As you play “EyePet,” you’ll have to learn to be attentive to your pet’s needs. If he looks dirty, you’ll have to give him a bath. If he’s bored, you’ll have to fire up his imagination.
I really only had one problem with “EyePet,” and that was the way it handled save files. It seems the developers have gone through a lot of trouble to make this little guy worth playing with and caring about. Yet you experience a disconnect when you back out to the menus. On one screen, you see all four save slots you can fill with EyePets, which are represented by cards with their names, dates of creation and a photo. It’s cute and all, but then right there is the option to “delete” your pet.
Just to see what would happen, I chose this option, then said “no” when I was asked if I wanted to continue. To have the game treat the handling of this little virtual buddy like just another string of data to be deleted or moved seemed oddly callous. I expected something with a little more heart.