When I said in my review of PSP Camera game Invizimals that the game’s sequel would be the next game to use the new accessory, I was wrong. The brand new PSP version of EyePet is that game, and I enjoyed it far more than anyone over the age of six should.
Like Invizimals, EyePet features augmented reality. With the PSP Camera and the paw print card that comes in the box, your EyePet can be seen as existing in your real environment.
The game takes quite a while to load, but considering all the technology added to a device that was originally released in 2005, it’s to be expected.
A cartoon professor figure gave me my initial tutorial. EyePets are wonderful creatures who’d love to be cared for by you, and are always very playful. Unlike the Tamagotchi I had in 1997, your EyePet won’t die from neglect. Unlike the Furby I had in 1999, mechanical parts won’t get jammed, and leaving your battery in for months or years will do no harm. (My first Furby was killed by leaving the batteries in for a long time without use.)
Despite the fact that EyePets look like mammals, they hatch from a hard-shelled egg. I had to put my paw print card on a table, and aim my camera on it, not too close, and not too far away. The egg appeared right on the card from the view of the screen. At first, I was told the egg was too cold, I’d have to warm it up! So, I had to move the camera back and forth to direct my heater over the egg’s surface. Then, my egg turned bright red, and I was told my egg was too hot! So, I had to blow on the egg, using the camera’s microphone. The egg turned a pleasant yellow color, and my EyePet started to hatch.
I took a photo of the birth. Photos may be taken almost any time by pressing the square button. I promptly named my new EyePet Lexi, which is recorded in the game, along with my audio ‘call’ for her, and a photo of me, her proud owner.
One advantage the game has over Invizimals is that it is possible to play with your EyePet for extended periods of time without using the camera, thanks to the Pet Home. That’s quite useful while in transit. Also, the game isn’t picky about the color of the surface you put your paw print card on, unlike Invizmals and its trap card. Your kids will find EyePet a lot easier to play in the car than the game the PSP Camera debuted in.
I spent the weekend at my dad’s apartment, and I took Lexi with me. When I introduced her to my 73-year-old father, he was quite impressed. He was rather pleased that Lexi didn’t tip over his glass of scotch. She just walked over it, as a surface as flat as the table it was on. Oh well, the technology isn’t perfect yet.
Your kids may have a lot of fun customizing the look of their EyePets. You can dye their fur in different colors or prints, change fur length and cut, and dress them in accessories. I was constantly earning funny hats and wacky sweaters by receiving a new ‘prize’ each time I launched the game, plus items can be won in the many mini games there are available. I promptly dyed Lexi’s fur an obnoxious shade of fushia, and put a trucker cap on her.
My favorite mini games include fishing, the trampoline, and the wooden car.
The trampoline game places four trampolines on your surface, around the card. Lexi is to go to each trampoline to jump and pop balloons. The player must select the correct trampoline for the EyePet to jump to, with the use of the directional pad or analog stick.
The wooden car racing game is actually done inside the Pet Home. Lexi hopped on the car, and it was my job to drive the car around obstacle courses. You don’t go very fast, but steering properly took me a while to get used to.
When I went fishing for the very first time, a pond appeared on my father’s dining room table! At least augmented reality doesn’t create a mess. I guided Lexi to where the schools of fish were, with the marker and its pet call. Lexi would grab a fish, and then it was my job to catch it with my net. As the game progressed, multiple fish would fall at a given time, and I’d have to catch them in an ordered sequence, each fish a different color. I was eager to play the fishing game, because fish you catch can be placed in the aquarium in the Pet Home. When I got back to the aquarium, though, I was a little disappointed. Only fish caught in ‘Free Play’ mode can be put there, and the fish I caught were in a scored game.
There’s a feature I found intriguing but a bit frustrating- you can draw a picture, with pen and paper, of a boat or car and it will ‘come to life’ for your EyePet to play with. A short tutorial will show the player how to draw the boat or car, and leave a bit of white space on the page. Then you’re to aim the PSP Camera on it, making sure the drawing is entirely within the frame and all four sides of the frame are green. The first time I tried to capture a car drawing, the game froze completely. The next day, I tried the drawing games again. I tried drawing my car with darker or lighter lines. There was no such luck. Capturing my boat was a lot easier. Then, Lexi tried to draw what I drew. The first few times we drew the boat together, my lines obviously weren’t dark enough and she was only drawing part of it. After a few tries though, my boat ‘came to life’ exactly as I drew it, and it became a three dimensional toy for Lexi.
The game also froze the very first time I tried to take a picture of myself. The technology has some bugs to work out, but I imagine developing the game was a Herculean effort for London Studio, even after having developed EyePet for the PS3 shortly beforehand.
Bathing and feeding Lexi reminded me of my experiences playing Nintendogs a few years ago. It was strangely relaxing, but thankfully, there are no negative consequences that come from not engaging in those activities. It was also a lot of fun to display photos of Lexi in her Pet Home, but unfortunately, the wall will only display two photos at a time.
There are no parental warnings on the game for content, so parents may feel fine about purchasing the game for a six-year-old. But for your six-year-old to enjoy the game, sometimes parental help will be required, especially when drawing.
As an adult, even I enjoyed the game, and I’ll continue to play with Lexi after doing this review. But then again, I keep a Hello Kitty calendar at my bedside.
There are quirks in the technology for developers to work out, but EyePet can be enjoyed without frustration most of the time. There have been a number of pet care video games released before, each with elements similar to many of the features in this game. But, the PSP Camera and augmented reality adds a new dimension to the whole concept.
The game is not available on the PSN, it’s UMD only.
Invizimals is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB.