Written by FurieTweet
Sony's EyePet - virtually a good review.
In October, Sony released their attempt at capturing the Nintendogs market share for the PS3. Their plan? Make the pet actually live in your home.
As far as a "virtual pet" goes, you have all the staples here. The pet needs feeding, clothing, cleaning and entertaining. There's nothing new on the surface. The difference is with the use of the Playstation Eye camera (you can buy EyePet with it for around £30, or on it's own if you already have one for around £15). Please note, the game will only work with a Playstation Eye, not any other USB video camera device.
So, what does the camera do for the virtual pet genre? Well, look at the image below:
Maxi-Minor_Furie tries to "out-cute" the EyePet
Let's face it, the EyePet is not only adorable, but it's there, in your living room!
You point the camera towards the floor, make a space, and then "play". The EyePet responds to touch, sound and movement. So you can stroke it to sleep, then wake it up with a loud yell. Or have it chase your hand around the floor. All of this is what you'd expect, but there's a limit to this kind of interaction and boredom would soon set in. This is where EyePet really plays it's trump card.
It's Snap, not Trumps!
There are a series of "daily" challenges. A box will appear with a present. The present is some kind of toy for your pet to play with (and a series of four challenges). The first day introduces the concept of washing and feeding your EyePet. This (and many of the other challenges and interactions) are performed using the supplied card. It's a large bit of plastic with a handle on the back and a white square in the centre. The game uses this as a multi-function tool, allowing you to use interactive items, or to position toys and things on the floor. It's a system that works well, as long as the white square isn't covered (either physically, or even by deep shadow).
The bubble blowing challenge has you trying to catch your EyePet in a giant bubble - awwwwww.
So far so good, but this, again, is all pretty much standard virtual critter stuff. There has to be more? Well, there is. You can teach your EyePet to draw.
By using simple shapes, drawn in a thick black ink (preferably on a sheet of clean, A5 paper) - not only can the EyePet learn to draw simple pictures, but some of them (as the days progress) can be turned into toys.
The car is the first "EyePet drawn" toy you can make.
The toys you make can be used to interact further with your EyePet. There's the Car, Plane, Robot, Balloon and Puppet models to unlock. As you win more challenges, more and more materials become available for you to make your creations from. There are limits to the things you make, but cars with six sets of wheels, or a single wing plane are possible - it's all about learning to use - and cheat - the system.
Batplane made out of silk - up in the skies.
So, it's all looking very bright for this clever little game... Or not as the case may be - there are a few issues.
The camera needs good light to work properly. Daylight works best - it loves it. Artificial light can be very troublesome. If it's too dark, then the EyePet and toys won't respond properly. If it's too light, there are too many shadows and it gets confused. It's a tricky job getting it just perfect.
A health check. Result = "needs more daylight".
This isn't the only little quibble the game has. Sometimes when a toy/challenge is appearing, it can take forever. They pop up out of a hole in the ground. Often the hole is there, but nothing pops out. You're left wondering if you need to flap around on the floor like a dead fish to try and entice it out, or if it will just appear when it's ready. It's a frustrating break in the flow of the game.
Then, there's amount of room you'll need. Preferably around about a five foot clear space away from your TV and all around the area in front of it. So it's not a game for a crowded living room. You're also going to be spending a fair amount of time down on the floor with it, not so great for back sufferers like me (but hey, it's for the kids surely?).
What are you cringing about EyePet? The singing, or Nintendogs on the DS Maxi-Minor_Furie is holding?
Continuing the list of "irritations" is the card. It's a great solution to the problem, and for the most part works. The problem though is that it's often hard to get it angled just right. You think it's spot on, but it loses site because you're not quite square, and the tool disappears. It's all down to the angle the camera is at, and it takes a bit of getting use to, as does the reversed movement - and that's for us grown ups. Maxi-Minor_Furie just can't get his head around the interaction, it's slightly too obscure for him. Even Minor_Furie struggles at times.
EyePet, you need to clean up your act!
The daily advancement idea isn't perfect either. It offers new sets of challenges after you have one so many old challenges - rather than just issuing a new set each day you play. It does limit you to new boxes of challenges, but it seems odd that you can suddenly gain three days worth of challenges when you first switch on. It's not a major issue, but it does mean you could potentially complete fifteen days in five.
Final bad point is a lack of consistent interface. Sometimes you'll need the pad, sometimes your hands, sometimes the card. When it comes to putting away toys and games, again it's sometimes the pad and a selection and sometimes the card and an icon. It's not a major thing, but you have to try and keep track of everything.
Things are looking rosy.
It's really not all doom and gloom though. The EyePet is endearing beyond compare. The toys and games given are all excellent, and most of the will appeal to the players (young, old, male or female). The challenges range from easy, to very tricky (singing specific notes to smash glasses is very tough), and the sheer number of rewards in terms of clothing, toy extras, materials, etc, etc make it very compelling. On top of that, there's also the Playstation Trophies to collect - adding an extra level of challenges to make your way through.
"Water you doing? This is snow time to play around!"
Designing the toys the EyePet will create for you is sheer genius. There's a lot of fun to be had with just playing around with more and more complex designs. Okay, it's big boys toys, but we have to be allowed to join in too surely? Maxi-Minor_Furie gets a real kick from the dressing up game (it's a simple selection system using the pad) and from simply rolling around on the floor playing with the EyePet. While it won't keep him entertained for more than five or ten minutes at a time - he does adore the EyePet and wants to play with it, even if it's a little beyond him. Though the recently discovered fish tank and fishing game are a big hit with him.
Virtual pets for a virtual pet???
If you already have a Playstation Eye, then I couldn't recommend this enough at the price. You may have managed to get all the challenges completed and trophies in a week or so, but you'll have a great time, and many hours of fun while you do it. Okay, the pet may then start to get a little neglected, but isn't that always the way? Especially if it's not physically tugging at your leg.
If you were considering a camera for the PS3, then the Playstation Eye is pretty good. There's a selection of games on the Playstation Network which use it, plus games like Buzz and Burnout Paradise also take advantage of the camera. So again, it's not a bad package with both camera and EyePet. The kids will definitely get a lot out of the EyePet, just be warned that they may need a fair amount of help using the card and getting the EyePet to do what they want.
All in all, great stuff!