It was once the case that the PS3 was a big boy’s toy. The domain of grown men with too much money to spare. Now with the release of LittleBigPlanet last christmas the console has taken on a more family-friendly air. This time it’s Eyepet, a virtual pet simulator that lets you use the Playstation Eye camera to watch yourself interact with it in real time.
Evidently the idea is that if you don’t have room for a pet then you can still enjoy a fraction of the experience without having to clean up after it or fork out for exorbitant vets fees. Instead you simply press a button and the object of your unconditional affection will unconditionally drop through a hole in the floor and be gone until summoned again like a homonculous genie.
The game is hosted by a boffinish scientist from the Eyepet centre, which turns out to be a petshop of sorts rather than some clinical test laboratory. The kindly Prof instructs you in a surprisingly simply yet unpatronising manner as he leads you through the steps to first getting, then caring for your Eyepet; peridoically popping up to suggest hints or give out new toys.
At first you are given a large blue egg which you must first warm, then tap upon and rock back and forth until it hatches into a cutesy little cross between a monkey, a kitten and a medical experiement gone wrong. Despite this you’ll find yourself very swiftly ooh and aah-ing over the silly things it does and the warming purr it makes when stroked.
From there the game sets you a series of challenges, laid out in a series of days which are gradually unlocked as you complete more and more of the mini-games. This is good as it ensures that young players won’t get bored and only have to do a few at a time. Unlike most mini-games, these challenges are based around playing with the Eyepet. You can change it’s fur length and style, or dress it in a variety of clothes.
Additionally you need to periodically wash and feed it, lest it become dirty and surrounded by flies. After these basic tasks are done, the game lets you interact more with the camera and beastie, drawing pictures for it and having the pet copy them badly in crayon is fun, more so once you start drawing space-ships and cars which then become useable items ingame. Even more again when you realise you can draw the vehicles to look however you like (although sadly triangular wheels simply don’t work as it turns out)
There sadly isn’t any form of multiplayer included in the experience which is a strange and surprising absence, since presumably players will want to send their pet to play with other people’s creations. Maybe it was too difficult to make work, or they worried that people would draw swastikas on their animals?; either way this is a missed opportunity nonetheless.
In the end, Eyepet is a remarkably entertaining experience at first but the only problem with it is that it does get dull quite quickly. The game isn’t enough like a tamagotchi to keep you enthralled in it’s welfare and not enough of a game to make playing with it for long stretches possible. In a very real way, it’s likely that an Eyepet is just for Christmas, not for life.