Closer Look: Adopting Sony's Eyepet

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The Independent Tech

Format: PS3

Publisher: Sony

Price: £19.99 (£34.99 with PS Eye)

Release: 23/10

Where Sony’s EyeToy peripheral was a hit back in the days of the PS2, the equivalent device for the PS3 – The PlayStation Eye – hasn’t quite taken off, despite utilising superior resolution and sensitivity technology. A good argument for the lack of success could be levelled at the scarce number of compatible games on store shelves, with only a few – such as Eye of Judgement – taking full advantage of the technology while other games, such as Burnout Paradise, simply use the camera to take your winning photograph.

All that is about to change however thanks to Sony’s latest creation: the EyePet. Neither human, nor monkey, nor dog or even cat, but rather a bizarre chimera of all four, the EyePet is as cute as it is vaguely unsettling; fortunately it makes up for that by being uniquely interactive. Utilising the PlayStation Eye to full effect has enabled Sony to surpass even Nintendo’s children quietening puppy simulator Nintendogs in terms of interactivity, owners can call their EyePet, stroke it, make it perform tricks, wash it, feed it, play bowling with it, in fact – other than physically touch it – you can do almost anything. This is down to movement sensors in the camera which detect where you hands are, relative to where the EyePet is. Wiggle your fingers in the air and your pet will jump to try and grab them, wiggle them on the floor and they’ll get pounced on – then there’s the magic card.

Before we go into the magic card though it might be worth describing how the camera set up works. The in-game tutorial (a mildly annoying scientist, strangely reminiscent of Christopher Lloyd’s Doc Brown) will assist you in the set-up. By pointing the camera down at the floor your EyePet, as you look at it on-screen, will appear to be running about your carpet. The effect however isn’t quite as easy to interact with as you might hope – we repeatedly found that backache would curtail our time with the pet simply because it never seems to be aligned on the TV so that it’s within easy reach.

Without experiencing the slight disjointedness of touching something without physically touching it yourself, it’s difficult to elaborate. However, as your hands pass through your EyePet without registering the contact for the umpteenth time, thus prompting you to bend further forward in attempt to elicit the correct response, I’m sure you’ll begin to agree. That isn’t to say that interaction is frustrating all of the time; on the contrary, it’s smooth sailing when carrying out the majority of activities, it’s the more intricate movements which cause the problems. Tickling the EyePet so it falls asleep for instance often results in it jumping at your fingers thus waking it again and even hatching it from an egg at the beginning of the game caused problems – the rocking motion required being so convoluted that the whole endeavour became a battle against the technology.

Once the EyePet has hatched however you’ll find a great number of tasks and activities are yours to share with your pet. The aforementioned magic card is your main method of interface; any number of devices – from hair dryers to trampolines – can be moved by use of the card as the PlayStation Eye uses it as a kind of green screen on which these devices are superimposed. Toys and devices are unlocked as you complete daily tasks and other challenges, there’s also a plethora of clothing and accessories to unlock which can then be used to style your EyePet just as you want it. The more creative among you can even change the length and colour of its hair to make your pet as distinctive as you like.

Sony’s EyePet is definitely worth a look for any PS3 owner and the PlayStation Eye itself is also a fine piece of kit which can even be used to make video calls. Adults should find the game diverting, a change of pace from the usual console release, while should the simpler aspects of playing with the EyePet is sure to keep the kids entertained for hours. The fact you can create four separate pets using the one copy of the game is also something which should avoid them having squabbles, just be prepared to step in from time-to-time on those more difficult challenges when superhuman dexterity is required to progress. A good effort from Sony then and a title which bridges the gap between current technology and the likes of the upcoming Sony ‘Wand’ peripheral and Microsoft’s Natal hardware.