The Sony Eye Toy is the really the original motion controller of the modern console age, on the PS2 the little movement sensing camera was underutilized. Sony really missed an opportunity with titles such as Eye Kinetic, cashing in on the home fitness craze - now sewn up by the Wii - could have been a real coffer liner for them.
Sony’s Studio London has attempted to reinvigorate Eye Toy on the PlayStation 3 with Eye Pet, a kind of Tamagotchi for tech-clued in kids. Kids that perhaps don’t have access to real, um... monkey-dogs.
Setting the room up is important, in particular lighting. Eye Pet is played on the floor in front of your TV, so clearing a clutter free space is also important. The Eye Toy is best placed on a lower level of your entertainment unit and pointed directly at the floor.
Once you enter the Eye Pet academy and meet ‘The Professor’ it is time to hatch your Eye Pet.
By waving the supplied specially marked card Eye Pet owners can manoeuvre an onscreen heater in front of the egg supplied by our friendly Professor. It works well, adjusting the card on the floor re-points the on-screen heater to hatch the egg.
Out pops your new Pet, kind of a cross between a monkey and a cat/dog with a bunch of wide-eyed Furby about it. My eight year old daughter immediately went ‘Awwww, isn’t he cute?’ And yes, once the little guy is bouncing around the screen and mewing he is awfully endearing.
The crux of this toy, is the daily pet programme, a series of challenges that step players through the pet care regime required for any virtual pet in today’s society. The basics of feeding, playing and grooming are taken care of, through a combination of hand gestures and use of the magic card.
In particular, the card is used to manipulate hand held objects such as hair dryers, feeding cups and shampoo bottles. This generation Eye Toy is a step up from the previous accuracy wise, though I did find myself edging closer and closer to the camera before realising that simply ensuring the flat of the card was placed as face up as possible was the best remedy for any recognition issues the game had.
Tamagotchi elements are obviously here as well, with your Pet quickly gathering a cloud of accompanying flies if not cared for. Whilst adults might find this annoying, the target demographic (ie. my daughter) warmed to these housekeeping tasks immediately.
The single most bothersome task for new virtual pet owners was the feeding tasks. Grabbing cookies from a dispenser and then either tipping the treats straight down your pets gullet or making him leap for them can end up with the limited cookies everywhere and the challenge failed.
If the developers were just slightly more lenient in the challenges Eye-Pet would be that more accessible. For example the Eye-Pets appearance gives budding Pet owners the chance to show some creativity with fur colour and length, patterns and clothes. The interface is a little clunky here despite using the controller rather than then camera as input.
There are plenty of games to play with your pet, photos to be taken and videos that can be recorded and shared online, plenty of activities that will keep kids amused, and adults, at times, amazed. Little things, such as rubbing your Pet’s tummy to put him to sleep to watch him dream dreams of past experiences, secretly recorded by the Eye-Toy earlier in the games life.
The use of the magic card, the variety of activities and the injection of life Studio London have given your virtual Pet is engaging for the target audience, a tech demo come to life, the precursor to titles such as Sony’s rival Microsoft and the Project Natal based Milo program.