EyePet Everywhere

With the increasing need in the games console market to cater for everyone who might possibly ever come into contact with a console, it’s no surprise that Sony have been giving their EyePet title some attention on both the PSP and PS3.

EyePet was, and still is, an exceptionally good kids game. But the original title had a major failing. The high-contrast, plastic card, which was recognised by the camera and used to manipulate all manner of on-screen objects, was flawed. No 3-year-old could reliably keep it pointed at the camera and parents fared little better.

Furthermore, it had very rudimentary orientation support- the camera could roughly tell how you orientated the card simply by looking at it, but it wasn’t a patch on the new control mechanism to step in and steal the limelight. I’m talking, of course, about the Move.

EyePet Move Edition, and the original EyePet game when upgraded with a free 2GB store download, both support a single Move controller and introduce a variety of additions and extra toys which would only really work well with Sony’s much touted new accessory.

The addition of Move support, all the better for being free (not counting the price of the controllers themselves, eee!), makes EyePet a far more appealing game with much more play value and far less frustration for 3 year olds. There are still problems, however, the Move controller is big, very big, it’s obviously designed for adult hands (a peculiar choice for something that’s supposed to be targeting a younger audience). It doesn’t fare well in the hands of a child but is far, far better than the awful plastic card which kids simply didn’t “get.”

EyePet is definitely still a parent-child title, you can’t simply let it babysit your little ones and must be prepared to get hands on and wash, feed, dress and play with the furry little mutant.

EyePet on the PSP is an entirely different experience. It brings true augmented reality into the mix, although it doesn’t do it particularly well. The card comes back this time, but is used simply for lying on the floor so that the PSP can recognise exactly where and how to project your pet. It’s really quite impressive technology, as you can lower your PSP right to the floor and see your EyePet close up from any angle you desire. It feels a lot like a tech demo, though, and not so much like a came.

The card causes problems with the PSP version again and, again, even adults have difficulty fully grasping the limitations of this technology. Attempts to pet your virtual pet, for example, will often result in obscuring the small card (smaller than the PS3 version, anyway) and cause your EyePet to raise into the air in a little bubble. It’s a nuisance, and what the game really needs is an elaborate floor mat which would create an extensive play surface. Creating a pattern simple enough for a camera to recognise, yet complex enough for it to determine information like distance, angle and so forth is no easy task, but clearly we’re moving closer and closer toward viable augmented reality games. To have EyePet so successfully translated to the PSP is impressive to say the least.

Where the PSP version falls flat on its face, however, is in a complete inability to transfer your PS3 EyePet onto your PSP for play on the go, or vice versa. At least I can’t find any such option.

The same old card problems aside, however, the PSP version is impressive. It’s fun for kids, and introduces a whole new, and slightly less frustrating way to interact. With no Move controller or hand-held card to wave about, the PSP controls are used for mini-games.

Overall, EyePet, in either of its incarnations, is a great game for kids from about ages 3 to 26 and probably beyond. The PS3 edition is a great parent-child activity, and the PSP edition is great for around the house and garden but doesn’t fare so well with multiple people trying to get in on the action.

If you already have a PS3, then EyePet Move Edition, and the Move Starter Pack would be a great Christmas combo. Otherwise, I wouldn’t recommend picking up a console for this reason alone. Once you’ve picked up a Move controller, however, there are plenty more Move games either out, or coming soon, which you might find entertaining. Personally, I found myself liking Time Crises, and also quite proud of my 3-year-old Daughter’s scary level of proficiency when playing The Shoot. Don’t let the name scare you off, though, The Shoot is a light-hearted and highly stylised game that’s no more violent than Tom & Jerry.

My main problem with Move, at the moment, is the price of the controllers. If you want to play Singstar Dance to its full extent you’ll be needing Microphones AND Move Controllers. Similarly Buzz now supports both Move controllers and Buzz controllers, and the Move Navigation controller is being unnecessarily sold to customers when a regular PS3 controller is just fine for those of us comfortable with the Move Controller itself in our right hands (disclaimer: I’m technically left handed) Oh, and you *need* a Camera too, making the Move Starter Kit essential. It’s really not unreasonably priced though.