The one true thing that can be said for both the PlayStation 3 and PSP versions of Sony's EyePet is that it's cute. It's hard to remain aloof in front of its furry, wide-eyed wonderment as it paces around the screen as helpless and beseeching as a puppy in a pet store window. Sadly, the feeling doesn't stick around for long in the PSP incarnation of the game, whose requirements for play are so complex that it becomes nearly impossible to enjoy the experience. The game feels out of its element--the immersive aspects of the virtual pet genre are nowhere to be found, replaced by painfully slow loading times and a shortage of content, turning what should have been a fun and immersive day out into a sluggish and chiropractically unsafe venture.
He looks cute, but don't move or he'll disappear!
The game comes bundled with a PSP camera, which you must attach and use in conjunction with a magic card, which is a rectangular-shaped plastic card that's about the same size as the PSP itself. Here's the catch: in order for the game to work, the PSP camera must have an unobstructed view of this card on a flat surface at all times. This immediately eliminates a wide variety of locations where you might play with a PSP, such as on public transport, in the supermarket queues, or in the bathroom. There is also the problem of posture--because the PSP needs to remain relatively still while you are playing to make sure the magic card stays within its designated range, the lengthier challenges can sometimes result in a stiff neck and back depending on how you choose to sit when you begin playing. Forget about looking around the room or shifting position mid-challenge: the moment you move, the gameplay stops until you reposition the PSP. Most of the activities also require a clear area twice the size of the magic card in order to work, which means that playing on your lap or even at a desk is not a viable option. About the only place where the PSP EyePet does work 100 percent of the time is on a large, clear section of the floor, which means you might as well just play the PS3 version instead.
A large part of the appeal of the virtual pet genre is the illusion of a relationship between something that is real (you) and something that isn't (the pet). The fact that you can interact with a virtual being through touch is one of the main draw cards of the PS3 version of EyePet, manifested through a variety of activities and challenges that are supposed to foster this relationship. This aspect of the gameplay has been removed from the PSP version, taking with it a large part of the game's charm. The interaction is limited to button pressing, and there is only so much emotion you can invest in a virtual pet without the proper avenues to take it to the next level of immersion. Why else is its fur tantalisingly long and soft, its tail tantalisingly springy, and its chin tantalisingly itchy? This is a virtual pet crying out to be played with, but there is nothing here that allows for this kind of interaction.