First Level: EyePet

Eyepet might not be what you think it might be. At least, it hasn’t turned out to be the game I thought it might have been: a dull, lifeless Tamagotchi ripoff with no soul of its own – maybe I’m just a jaded old sod but I really wasn’t expecting the thing to be so versatile. Seriously, it’s actually rather clever – and camera technology issues aside we’re fairly sure that kids looking for something fluffy and cute will find much to enjoy here. But first things first – you’ve got to set up your room and then you’ve got to hatch that egg, and those bits aren’t so great.

So, as the slightly condescending movie tells you: put the Eyepet card on the floor, put the camera between 30 and 60 cm from the ground, angled down, and you’re good to go. The software works out where your floor is from the card and then places the egg, augmented in full 3D, on your television set. Apart from when the stereotypical ‘professor’ is talking you’ll be seeing the view of the camera with the PS3 adding the visuals on top which all works rather well despite the relative low resolution of the Eye mixed with the crisp 720p polygons. Once you’re all setup and ready to go your Eyepet egg is delivered, and then you must tap, warm (with a heater) and copy the unhatched Eyepet’s ‘dancing’ until it finds its way out.

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I couldn’t work out whether the first 15 or so minutes with your shelled Eyepet was actually some elaborate calibration exercise or really just as painstakingly dull as it seemed: sure, it acts as a reasonable introduction to using the little plastic card to bring up commands but they’re somewhat glossed over and unless your room is set up just as the video instructs the PlayStation Eye is going to struggle. With the low levels of brightness of a Glasgow tenement giving issues with Eye of Judgement that prevented me from ever playing it I was expecting the worst – Eyepet is better in non-perfect conditions but you’re still going to need plenty of light.

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Once your Eyepet is freed from his eggy surroundings you’ll be taken down a fairly linear set of tasks that demonstrate the flexibility of the technology to ease you in before letting you decide on your own path. The card can be used to ‘show’ things to the camera but also as a method of controlling the tools used to interact with your ‘pet – for example, one of the first things you must do is feed the little critter, and this involves using the card as a cookie jar which must be filled and tipped, poured and shook when requested. The response speed of both the software matching your movements and the AI of the Eyepet is impressive, with our little Oscar being a particularly greedy monkey.

Eyepet’s main thread is a set of daily challenges, of which the game offers just over 2 weeks worth (they’re not real days, mind) with each ‘day’ being split into a number of tasks such as the aforementioned feeding. Success in these is rewarded with a star (with a Trophy if you get all golds) and some questionable clothing options but also with the delivery of new gadgets and toys for your ‘pet. In particular, the game soon gives way to fully fledged minigames and activities like bowling which offer fun diversions despite being poorly explained if at all – parents will definitely want to show kids how each game works at least once.

Other areas of the game require the use of the Dualshock controller to bring up a menu – and whilst you can choose from the main activities using the camera (and a swipe of the hand) it’s much quicker and less hassle to pick those from the joypad menu too. We’ll go over such things in fine detail for the review, but while the menus are nicely designed and easy to navigate changing decades old video game standard conventions like ‘quit’ to ‘tidy up’ is really silly and the load times between activities and tasks are disappointing. Still, I’ve had great fun with the game: the customisation aspects are actually quite advanced, there’s loads to do and you do get rather attached to your new friend.

From what I’ve seen so far kids will love it, and if this is the first step in opening up the PlayStation 3 to new gamers then I’m all for it – we’ll press on with Eyepet over the next week, so stay tuned.

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