Every so often I get this inane craving to move around from killing people, blowing stuff up and school my friends at sports games. That’s when I need a good wholesome title that will make me feel a little better about myself, something that I can show my family members to prove that video games aren’t all about violence and mayhem. For this, I’m thankful that Sony has released the long-awaited Eye Toy and while it doesn’t have its share of problems, it’s still an amazing piece of technology that has plenty of potential for the future.
While the PS2 is probably the farthest away from a family gaming device as you could get you’d be surprised as the amount of parents and grandparents who like to play along with their children. It’s these instances when games like Grand Theft Auto
and True Crime: Streets of LA
aren’t really an option. For moments like these you want a device like the Eye Toy that will not only cater to the entire family but will also literally put them into the game.
Instead of the Dual Shock 2 the actual on-screen player is the controller. With the use of your body you can fight ninjas, head soccer balls, ignite fireworks, clean windows and much much more. Because the Dual Shock 2 is taken out of the picture it opens up the system to a much wider array of individuals. Grandmas and Grandpas who have a difficult time managing the eight buttons on the controller are now able to use their own two hands to control the action. Likewise, younger children who have a difficult time wrapping their tiny mitts around the Dual Shock 2 are also able to play with the Eye Toy. What makes this so accessible is that the movements are so natural. See a ninja coming at you? Swat it away. Want to clean windows? Well use your hands and wipe them off. It relies on natural instincts and none of the games are really all that difficult to play.
Not just a gaming device, the Eye Toy is capable of recording up to one minute of video messages as well. Via the lens and a built-in microphone you’ll be able to record and leave messages onto your memory card for loved ones to view at a later date. Although it’s improbable to fathom that my father would boot up my PS2 to search for a video message it’s still a nice feature for people who want to leave something more personal than a Post-It note. It also works as a screensaver of some sorts where you can add some effects like bubbles and snowflakes.
Working on motion sensor technology, the USB camera is a wonder within itself. It does an amazing job of sensing and keeping up with the player’s movements. What’s more is that the video quality is amazingly sharp and clear. I was expecting something similar to your traditional web cam but I received a device that was very quick and sharp. There’s very little delay (if any) between the time that I perform an action and the time that it is depicted on my television screen.
Installation is as simple as plugging on end into an available USB slot, placing the camera atop the television set and positioning it so that the player is visible on the screen. While the unit looks like one piece it’s actual two pieces, the camera and the base. This allows you to swivel the device and adjust its elevation so that short and tall players can join in the fun. Also on the front of the camera is a manual focus that works the same here as it does on any home video camera. The device also has two LED lights on it, a blue one similar to the PS2 power light to let you know that the device is powered and working and a red one that lets you know when you’re out of focus. Its actual construct is engineered to look like the PS2 so that others can immediately recognize that it’s a Sony device.As for the games themselves I’ll do this the easy way and throw out some thoughts on each of them:
Kung Foo – Definitely the brightest part of this package. Defend yourself against an endless onslaught of ninjas who come at you from all directions. There’s just something unique charming and rewarding about swatting ninjas away with your hands, elbows, forehead and sock nunchuks. Play this one first if you buy the Eye Toy, it’s the stuff that dreams are made of.
Boxing Chump - Take on a fierce robotic enemy by knocking the living daylights out of him. The idea is great but sometimes the game has a difficult time registering hits. Most of the time you’ll just be punching at thin air as your health is slowly depleted. Enjoyable could have been much better.
Mirror Time - Think you’re coordinated? Then you’ll want to engage in a challenging game that requires some wits and concentration. There are four circles on the corners of the screen, with your hands you’ll have to touch the green ones while avoiding the red ones. During each run a portion of the screen becomes mirrored, leaving the player disoriented. Very difficult but at the same time very entertaining.
Soccer Craze - A fun game where you have to juggle a soccer ball in the air with the use of your head. You can also use the ball as a weapon to beat up on moneys and mimes. It’s not the best game on the set but it’s a lot of fun to play.
Slap Stream - One of the weaker games of the bunch, it’s essentially a sensory reaction game where you have to hit the bad guys off of the clouds without touching the good guys.
Ghost Eliminator - Vanquish the ghosts from the screen with your magical hands. Pretty run-of-the-mill although the picture of the grandma playing it on the side of the box is worth a few laughs.
Plate Spinner - Become one of those professional plate spinners who like to sit on the Santa Monica pier and beg you for sympathy change. Keep the plates spinning by waving your fingers over them. Pretty challenging but it’s not as rewarding as flicking ninjas at the screen.
UFO Juggler - Very similar to the Plate Spinner game except your goal is to get a UFO to the top of the screen so that it can launch into orbit. A pretty entertaining diversion but again, not one of the stronger games in this package.
Wishi Washi - Like to clean windows? Then this is the game for you. Use your hands, arms, head and body to clean the dirty windows. It sounds really boring and cumbersome but it’s actually a really entertaining game. Plus it has a really catchy song that makes the window cleaning even more rewarding.
Rocket Rumble - Basically a more interactive version of Fantavision. Touch the fireworks with your hands and then detonate them for tons of shiny goodness. A fun game that probably ranks among the top three on the Play disc.
Disco Stars - Kind of like playing Simon except you’re grooving along to music as opposed to some monotone voice. Mimic the actions of the girl on the screen and touch the lights in the same rhythm to score major points.
Beat Freak - Hit the discs as they reach the speakers to make some funky beats. Pretty fun, especially for people who like to play Konami’s Bemani line of games. Not quite as rewarding as Beatmania and there are only three tracks available, but it’s definitely a lot of fun.
In total only four or five of the game are worth playing over and over again, especially the highly entertaining Kung Foo
. It’s not that the other games aren’t neat to play or anything, it’s just that there’s not really much about them that makes me want to keep playing. There’s definitely something charming about cleaning windows (something ironic as well) and beating up monkeys with soccer balls but I have a hard time becoming enthralled by spinning plates and light patterns.
My largest problem with the device is that it assumes that everyone has the optimal type of lighting in their living rooms. When I received demonstrations at E3 and Gamers Day I often wondered why I was blinded by a multitude of bright and powerful lights. After toying around with my review unit I’ve discovered that the device requires some pretty insane lighting conditions in order to operate properly. If your room is too dark the device won’t pick up on your motions and your actions won’t register in the games, basically making the device useless. This also makes it difficult to actually see yourself clearly in games like the people pictured in these photographs. If you really intend on getting the most out of this device we suggest that you put a huge white sheet behind you and position some lights by the device and point them at you. A thoughtful "dim room" mode was put in but you lose quite a bit of image quality and the video isn't as smooth as it should be.
It would also behoove you to wear bright and colorful clothing. Initially I played with the clothing that we wore for the day, generally of the dark blue or black variety. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out why the device had such a hard time picking up on our movements and then my friend, who was wearing a white shirt with long sleeve, walks in and tests out the unit. Because he was more visible he didn’t run into the same problems that I had and had a much easier time with the motion sensing technology.
It’s true, the Eye Toy is one amazing piece of technology, but the packaged Play Disc is pretty lacking as a piece of entertainment software. It does an admirable job of showcasing what the Eye Toy can do but I just keep imagining the potential of the device and I never see it realized in the Play disc. The screensavers don’t do much for me, the video messaging is limited to a brief one-minute clip and of the included games only five are really worth playing over and over again. That doesn’t mean that I’m not excited about this device though. It has a ton of potential and with the strong sales overseas, Sony is sure to support it for many years to come. Buy it now if you’re looking for a nice attraction to bring the family together but if you’re a hardcore gamer you may want to pass until Sony uncorks more of the device’s functionality.