Reviewed: December 12, 2010
Released: November 2, 2010
For years I have heard of the elusive PSP Go!Cam (aka Chotto Shot) and seen the PSP Camera option on the cross medial bar, but I never thought that when I actually got my hands on one of these devices that it would be used in such an amazing way. But for the past few weeks I have had the pleasure to check out a couple of Sony’s recently released camera-aided PSP titles, and I have to say that while both titles are lacking a bit in the actual gameplay, I am very impressed with the technology and the unique nature of its implementation. |
I just wrapped up my review of the first of these titles, a Pokémon-like creature capture-and-battle game called inviZimals, which offered polished presentation and solid gameplay. The second title is a Nintendogs styled virtual pet simulator called EyePet. And yes, there was also a recently released EyePet for the PS3 Move, and the two titles feature the same virtual animals, only implementing them in slightly different ways.
The PSP version’s gameplay mechanic works using the included PSP camera, which is mounted atop the PSP and pointed away from the player. The screen then presents a real-time image of the area “behind” the PSP. The player is then instructed to place in the viewing area an included cardboard “magic card” that is printed with a particular design that allows the game to determine the surface conditions upon which the three-dimensional EyePet will appear onscreen, as if they were physically in the room behind the PSP.
Believe me, describing the experience to you in words is more difficult than it sounds, but seeing the technology in action is simply amazing, especially once you realize that the PSP can be moved around the creatures, and as long as the “magic card” stays in the view, their three-dimensional characteristics are rendered appropriately. The key word in that description is the “magic card”, which must always be in clear view so the game can keep aligned with the card’s design – if the camera loses so much as a corner, is moved too quickly, or if focus is lost, the EyePet will disappear from view. This card (technically called a “fiduciary marker”) is a nagging limitation of the technology, and is something gamers will have to deal with. InviZimals shares the very same issues, but seems to be a bit more forgiving to the gamer than EyePet does.
Sadly, where the PSP version of EyePet stumbles – and stumbles hard – is in the gameplay department. Simply put, in a post-Nintendogs world it takes more than gimmicky camera work to top Nintendo’s epic creation. EyePet’s button-pressing mini-games and dress-up sequences just can’t match the character-player relationships that are formed by the touch-screen cuddliness that is Nintendogs, and as so comes across as half-baked.
In the absence of the DS touchscreen, PSP gamers are limited in contact with their pets to simply blowing in the microphone or waving small objects under the camera for the character to react to. The effect is an amazing feat of visual technology, but compared to the tactile belly-scratching and shampooing action of Nintendogs, EyePet’s character interaction seems hollow and contrived. And while dressing up your EyePet like a pirate or a racecar driver is cute, it has little effect on the overall gameplay feel.
The mini-game list is quite short: fishing, gardening, treasure hunting, trampolining, and bowling. That’s pretty much all there is, and none of them are anywhere near as fun as they sound. Fishing is little more than side-to-side netting of fish that the Eyepet tosses at you from a poorly rendered pond. Bowling is simply blowing into the microphone to roll your EyePet towards various pin setups. The fact that these items are projected onto your kitchen countertop or coffee table (at least on the PSP screen) is pretty amazing technologically, but are implemented in such dull and boring activities that I could hardly get myself to make a return visit. Compare that to the fact that four years later I still love playing Frisbee and running through agility courses with my Nintendogs, and it proves to me that EyePet just doesn’t cut the mustard.
In summary, while I love the PSP Camera, EyePet is simply not the best implementation of the technology. Gamers who want to see the technology implemented in a manner that is actually enjoyable would be better off checking out inviZimals. EyePet’s trailers and commercials may lead you to believe that it is the epitome of cuteness, but overall the gameplay is rather unattractive.