It's easy to fall in love with Sony's EyePet. This weird amalgam of puppy, monkey, and kitten is an expert at furry cuteness and wide-eyed wonder, but sadly, the love doesn't stick around for long. While the game successfully uses the motion-sensing capabilities of the PlayStation Eye camera and the PlayStation Move controller to create an immersive experience, it's ultimately short-lived. The virtual pet, while creating a very good illusion of being real, shows no signs of growth and, perhaps most disappointingly, lacks individuality.
6238554NonePlaying a simple game of Snap with the EyePet is lots of fun.
The first thing you are taught is how to correctly position the PlayStation Eye camera--knee height and pointing at the ground--and then pick a name for your EyePet. (We named ours George.) You must then hatch the pet out of its egg by holding the Move controller upright and using it to heat the egg. Once the egg cracks, you must use either your hands or the Move controller to rock it back and forth--if you use the former, this is the first instance where you'll directly interact with the onscreen environment without a controller, and it takes some getting used to, particularly because there's nothing to guide your hands to the right place. The lack of helpful reference points means you'll go through a lot of trial and error.
Once your new furry little friend appears, things become a little easier: you tickle, push, and chase him around the room with either your hands or the controller; stick out your hand and watch him jump; or playfully push him over with the glowing tip of the Move and watch him react. This is a fun and engaging experience--it's exciting to interact with a virtual being on such a close and personal level. You are then guided through a series of pet care activities that include feeding, washing, styling, and keeping your pet healthy. However, there's no real incentive to feed, wash, or exercise him: if you leave the pet without food or a bath for more than a day--or, as we did, left George for up to a year by putting the date forward on the PlayStation 3--the only visible change will be a swarm of flies buzzing around his head and an occasional impulse to drag his food bowl into view and stare at it longingly. While these signs may be an obvious indication of what you should do, you will not be reprimanded in any way if you don't, nor will your pet get sad or sick, or stop participating in the challenges.
The main component of the game is the Pet Program, composed of 60 challenges split evenly between 15 "days" (however, you can play through about three days' worth of content in one session before the game stops you). The challenges start off rudimentary. For example, you must use the Move controller to create a trampoline on which the EyePet bounces until he reaches the goal set by the game. Most objects work that way: you simply let the camera scan the Move controller, and onscreen objects attach to it ready to wield. There is a good mix of challenges using either the Move controller or your hands, including one-off challenges and some that you can come back to for a high score.
Smashing melons with the help of your pet proves more challenging than it looks.
The disappointing thing is that the Move controller adds nothing to the gameplay; indeed, some of the most intuitive and fun challenges are those where you can use just your hands. Not having to use a controller creates a deeper level of immersion--it's just you and your virtual pet, interacting without the aid of an intermediary. The fact that you can reach out with your hands, touch this little guy, and watch him react is a thrilling experience every time. One of the most immersive challenges that best demonstrates this connection is a simple game of Snap: you and your pet match off against each other with a deck of facedown cards. You use your hand to pick up a card, and he does the same by nudging the deck with his nose. Once you see a matching card, you must beat him to the deck by literally snapping the cards with your hand. Simple and elegant, this challenge is lots of fun because it feels like you're actually playing Snap, rather than playing a game within a game. Outdoor challenges also allow you to use your hands; some involve planting flowers in a makeshift garden or helping the EyePet run on a treadmill by clapping your hands whenever he comes to an obstacle to make him jump over it. Once completed, challenges win you prizes--mostly new toys and clothes for your pet. You do have the option of using the Move controller in these challenges instead of your hands, and while both options control in much the same way and are just as responsive, the latter is simply more fun.