EyePet is a game not remotely designed for this reviewer – I typically scoff at casual games, I mostly hate cute things, I’m 32 years old, and I’m male. EyePet points its bubble gun at the opposite demographic: young kids, women, and anyone whose heart dribbles when a fuzzy creature tumbles over. Note that when I put “women” in there, it was not a baseless and sexist assumption – as I was playing EyePet, several co-workers of the fairer gender stopped to express their adulation for how damn cute the EyePet was, and I also tested it on my wife, who had a blast with the game for several hours and professed her love for it. Lo and behold, the stupid little monkey-dog thing won me over too – and it took about thirty seconds.
Above: Ignore the creepy family and look at how cute that thing is
Even I can like cute things when done right – Mario Galaxy for instance – and so the adorable critter, with his endless font of enthusiasm, disarmed me almost immediately. His effect on women and children, then, surely could be used as a weapon against a hypothetical country of women and children, because the cuteness levels go from “dangerous” to “deadly.” I didn’t have any nearby kids to test it on, but if it could crack my hardened shell, kids will probably go ape-shit over it. This thing probably won’t sell too many PS Move controllers, but for parents or people with Move-equipped youngsters in the extended family, it’s a sure bet as a gift.
There’s no way kids won’t love this thing, and it’s not just because it sends cuteness crawling out of your TV like a plushie Samara from The Ring: Teletubby Edition. The gimmick of aiming the PS Eye camera at the floor in front of your TV and then creating the illusion that the EyePet and all his toys spawn out of your living room floor is honestly a bit magical, and surprisingly doesn’t get old after five minutes. The Move controller adds to the blurring of boundary between game and reality when various toys are pasted over the Move’s glowing ball. Suddenly, the controller becomes a shower head, a cat toy, a blow dryer – and the accuracy to how it follows your movements completes the illusion.
Above: The game excels at little details, like how the water on your "floor" reflects the environment - including you
Aside from what you’d expect – playing with the pet and grooming and feeding him – the game actually has many, many ideas for activities, so at least for kids, it won’t get boring after the novelty wears off. And it doesn’t force you to care for him like so many virtual pet games – if you don’t mind the dirty face and flies, you can never shower him.
Aside from the obvious reasons hardcore gamers would rather play Vampire Rain than EyePet, there are some gripes that any player will encounter, and it’s important to be aware that kids with low frustration thresholds may have issues, especially if left alone to play without adult help. The game has often extremely vague instructions accompanying the activities, so occasionally it becomes an issue of trial and error. This blind hand-waving and fiddling gets further hindered by inconsistent controls – it’s probably an unavoidable limitation of camera-based technology, but the pet sometimes ignores hand gestures and figuring out the proper aiming angle for some toys is thoroughly confusing. Then there is the fussy perfectionism required by certain activities – a fun singing game falls apart when it seems to randomly not like the notes being produced, and a drawing exercise stumped me for minutes on end as the camera wouldn’t recognize my drawing, telling me to adjust the orientation of the paper when in fact the problem was not enough light.
Above: When we played the game the tools, like the fish net here, were better proportioned since we sat closer to the TV
In a way, EyePet is review proof – most of its target audience probably doesn’t read reviews. So take this as a gift recommendation – kids and female significant others will be “awwwing” for days on end if given this inventive, imaginative (if a bit wonky) game. For the lady gamers out there: if you like cute things at all, don’t be afraid to pick this up, and don’t be surprised if your man ends up cooing at that damn monkey-dog right alongside you.
Sep 16, 2010