EyePet PSP Review

   10/11/2010 at 18:29       Flying_Pig       4 COMMENTS. - Score 1/5
 - EyePet, Sony PSP, EyeToy, Interactivity, Pet

Augmented Reality is defined as the enrichment of the real world with the virtual; where the real world is augmented by virtual computer-generated sensory input such as sound or graphics. I suspect that the visionaries of times past did not imagine that augmented reality for the 21st Century would consist of playing with a cute virtual pet on your living room carpet.

Following on from the original EyePet game released on PlayStation 3 last year, Sony’s London Studio have developed a new version especially for the PSP, making use of the PSP’s criminally under-used camera attachment.

Before I proceed onto the game itself, a few words on the camera: On the plus side, it works well in most (reasonable) lighting conditions, it produces a decent quality image and there’s almost no image lag. However, it eats through the PSP’s already modest battery life and is not compatible with the PSPGo.

Isn’t it cute!

EyePet centres around looking after and playing with your new virtual pet. Looking like a result of some un-Godly cross breeding program; the EyePet is part Monkey, part Kitten and part Baby. What it certainly is, is very well animated and acts pretty much as you would expect a playful young animal to.

The augmented reality aspect means that rather being restricted to a virtual environment on your PSP screen, your cute companion is super-imposed on whatever surface your PSP camera is pointed at. So long as the surface is relatively flat, the game doesn’t have a problem projecting the playing environment on it. This isn’t just restricted to a table or the floor – the game thinks nothing of being outside on the grass or even on your lap.

The only real restriction here is that the camera must be able to see the Magic Card (included with the game) – which is essentially a black plastic mat with a white square and a paw-print on it. Your EyePet is not limited to ‘sitting on’ the Magic Card and can freely wonder around, within the view of the PSP Camera. Cleverly, when the camera can’t see the Magic Card, rather than making the EyePet disappear, destroying the illusion, your EyePet is captured within a bubble, and floats around harmlessly until the card comes back into view.

But it’s also worth remembering that as a portable console, you may want to play EyePet in an environment where it’s not possible to use the camera and Magic Card. In this scenario, the Home feature allows you to mess around with the EyePet with the augmented reality features turned off, providing th opportunity to play without the need for the Magic Card or camera.

An Empty Vessel

From a technological perspective EyePet is pretty impressive, and the initial wow-factor of seeing your new virtual pet tumbling across the table certainly got my attention. It all starts so well; your pet arrives as an egg, and as directed by the well intentioned doctor, you must first warm the egg by using a heater, moving the camera around the egg, thereby moving the heater to ensure it’s heated evenly. But inevitably you’ll go too far, overheating the egg, although this is easily resolved by you blowing on the egg (via the microphone) to cool it down.

However, where EyePet falls down, is that in terms of real content EyePet is extremely limited.

You have the option of half-a-dozen or so mini-games for you to play with your new best friend, ranging from bowling (where the EyePet curls up into a ball for you to roll at the pins), to trampolining and fishing. Unfortunately they’re all fairly basic and in many situations the controls are unnecessarily complex or insufficiently precise meaning that none of the mini-games are particularly fun for longer than 10 minutes.

For those dedicated enough to play through all five rounds of any given mini-game, you’ll be rewarded with items of clothing and accessories, allowing you to dress your EyePet in any way which takes your fancy. More of these rewards are won for getting Gold medals and playing through the three different ‘tournaments’ of increasing difficulty which each mini-game offers, but few players will maintain sufficient interest to achieve this.

Furthermore, while the rewards to new clothing will prompt you to persevere a little longer, there’s no risk here; nothing at stake – your EyePet shows no signs of good or bad treatment and there’s no growth or change as time goes on. He will continue to look and act exactly the same as he did the day he hatched out of the egg.

Don’t worry - He doesn’t bite

While EyePet is clearly aimed at children, rather than hardened gamers in their early 30s, it’s no excuse for weak gameplay hidden beneath this flashy and, admittedly impressive, exterior. The interest for EyePet comes more from the augmented reality than the actual gameplay, but even this is shattered when you realise that your interactions are limited to button presses and mini-games.

Even for a child, EyePet is hard to recommend – especially as you’ll need to buy the camera as well, making this an expensive purchase, particularly when compared to better PSP titles. But if the pestering becomes too much and you relent, expect your progeny to have tired of this in days, rather than weeks.

For all its charm, and technological wizardry, there’s not enough content to warrant welcoming an EyePet into your life, and if you do, it’ll last about as long as a carnival goldfish.

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