Something wonderful happens when you buy EyeToy (not provided with this rental disc). You open the box and inside is a little camera shaped like a miniature PlayStation 2. The camera oozes that unmistakably 'made by Sony' feeling of quality, complete with the inimitable red and blue LED's and a manual lens focus.
Already, its well worth the money
Then, something else even more amazing happens. Your girlfriend and non-gaming friends, all of whom are sick to the back teeth of your digital obsessions, suddenly begin fighting to get in front of the TV. EyeToy, on all levels, is a winner.
Although EyeToy should really have been a Sega Dreamcast invention three years ago, the fact remains that, as a moment in gaming, nothing has come close to delivering eclectic, universally appealing game entertainment since Dance Dance Revolution.
The premise is simple. You position yourself in front of your TV and control everything via the motion sensing camera. At no point is the joypad needed, as all navigation, game control, file management and so on is conducted through the camera. It feels strange, but only for about one minute, as you ease yourself into the narcissistic world of motion-sensing photography hybrid gaming that comprises EyeToy.
The mini-games - 12 in all - are an eclectic mix of 2D offerings, with an Oriental/Cockney mix of characters imparting a feeling best described as playing Bishi Bashi in Bermondsey. Titles such as the excellent Kung Foo see you positioned in the middle of the screen, like a giant boss from any number of games, while hordes of titchy attackers launch themselves at you. You simply slap, punch or head them away. Fantastic! Its also worth mentioning that this game probably best highlights the collision sensitivity of EyeToy. Its perfect - not spongy in the least. Every time you make contact with an attacker, they fly out of view, leaving you feeling that, beyond all expectations, the EyeToy, as a device and a concept, works perfectly.
Other games, such as Keep Ups, a game in which you have to keep a ball from dropping, highlight the direction sensitivity and accuracy of the hardware/software marriage to be found in EyeToy. You hit the ball left and up a bit, it goes left and up a bit. Huzzah!
To describe the games in simple words is to do them a great disservice as the feeling of playing EyeToy, and the impact it has on players of all ages and persuasions, somewhat transcends the usual boundaries of a game review. Novice gamers will beat the hardcore at certain tasks; a bitter pill to swallow, especially when your non-gaming spouse wakes you the next morning, their first words being Ha, ha, its 12-9 to me.
There is also a spring of creative juices that is set gushing when any gaming aficionado plays EyeToy. Certain games should be faster, more difficult, designed differently. Yet instead of festering as criticism, this thought process leads you into inventing, at an alarmingly rapid rate, new EyeToy games. You want to write to Sonys London Studio to let them know the brilliant new ideas youve come up with. Its with this in mind we notice that SCEE has already confirmed a new batch of EyeToy games, which will available in time for Christmas 2003.
Its worth mentioning the Trojan element to EyeToy. Essentially, it equips your PlayStation 2, which can now go online, with a multimedia webcam, complete with microphone. As well as the ability to add digital-personal photographic content to future games, the device is blatantly preparing for an online community messaging role. The EyeToy Play pack comes complete with a video messaging function, conditioning the gaming public into personal communication of this type via the PS2.
EyeToy really is a must-buy product. Veterans of Guitaroo Man, Bishi Bashi, Point Blank, WarioWare, Monkey Ball and so on will take to the games format and aesthetic within seconds. Non-gamers may take over a minute, but not much longer.