Let’s get a few important points out of the way. First, EyePet is a game designed with young children in mind. No one on the NowGamer team is a young child, nor do any of us have young children of our own, nor do any of our friends who do have young children trust us to borrow them for the purposes of our EyePet review. Wise on their part; we’re very irresponsible and would probably end up teaching their children to drink whisky and smoke cigars or something.
However, the good news is that pretty much every member of the NowGamer team is able to regress to a child-like state of mind with minimal effort. It is a process though, not something that can be induced instantly. A mental age of seven can only be reached via a mental age of 13, and the first hour or so we spent with EyePet was taken up with getting through the 13-year-old stage. And er… in many ways, 13-year-olds are much less mature than seven-year-olds. We don’t want to go into the details of what happened during that first hour, but we confess we got our new pet to draw and write things that he was too young to understand, and he may also have been prodded inappropriately (he seemed to like it, though). We’re sorry. Shameful though our behaviour may have been, we feel it was necessary to get it out of our system and the important, not to mention surprising, thing is that once we started playing with EyePet the way it was meant to be played, it got better. Much better, in fact.
Our initial reaction to EyePet, as you might remember if you’ve read our previews, was that the technology driving it was incredible and amazing and a thing of the future. But having spent a lot more time with it now, we realise that this was a very adult, and not entirely accurate, way of looking at it. The technology really isn’t the most impressive thing about EyePet. It’s better than anything seen on the PS2’s EyeToy, certainly, but still quite unwieldy and clumsy, and way inferior to the kind of thing we’re already seeing coming out of Sony’s motion controller labs. The best thing about EyePet is the quality of the character design and animation. It’s so good that it fools you into thinking the PlayStation Eye technology is actually better than it is. At least we think it does.
During our time with EyePet, there have been numerous occasions on which we’ve had to ask ourselves whether something it did was the result of clever technology or whether it was just a coincidence that he behaved in a certain way when we did a certain thing and it just looked like he was reacting. Sometimes we could tell one way or the other, sometimes we couldn’t, but we were generally most impressed when we decided that it must just be coincidence. When it’s the tech at work, that’s just mechanical, you can read the cause/effect links between your actions and EyePet’s quite clearly. It’s when there’s grey area, where you can’t quite grasp where the boundaries between real, virtual and imaginary lie, that EyePet becomes something you can’t help but believe in, and that’s not down to technology, that’s down to what a brilliantly designed character he is.
He might look like a monkey, but if you ask us EyePet is pretty much an exact 50/50 hybrid of a kitten and a very young human child, but without any of the bad smells, allergies, annoying noise or tantrums that this would normally entail. He’s very cute, very funny and incredibly expressive. Even Sackboy looks a little bit lifeless by comparison. So EyePet the creature gets an unequivocal thumbs up, but what of EyePet the game?
By far the best set of toys at EyePet’s disposal is his collection of sketchbooks. You draw a simple image on a real piece of paper with a real marker pen and hold it up to the camera, and he copies it with his magic crayon. At first, you can just put the drawings on T-shirts for EyePet to wear, but then you unlock sketchbooks that can turn your models into 3D objects – cars, planes, robots, balloons and puppets – that you and EyePet can then play with together. It’s loads of fun to experiment with, although it can get a bit frustrating when EyePet fails to copy your drawings properly and the resulting model is a broken mess.
The first thing to remember is that you’re getting the camera and game for £35 and the camera costs £25 on its own, so you’re effectively getting the game for a tenner. In that sense it represents excellent value for money, but you still shouldn’t expect that much longevity out of it. An EyePet, unlike a puppy, really might just be for Christmas. Kids (or adults) of an impatient disposition will probably get frustrated with the sometimes inaccurate and unresponsive technology very quickly, and while the more patient, thoughtful type will no doubt get a lot more out of it, there isn’t really any depth here and we can’t see EyePet’s charm lasting more than a few weeks. They’ll be a fun few weeks mind, and the camera will prove to be a worthy investment when the PS3’s motion controller finally rolls out.