EyePet Adventures: review

Photobucket

The oft-ignored PSP camera is getting some love from Sony at the tail end of 2011 with two Augmented Reality animal sequels. EyePet Adventures is likely to be the one to catch most people’s proverbial eye, with not only a PSP prequel but also a few PS3 cousins. The idea in Adventures is to meld a virtual pet with a more traditional exploration-based gaming experience; though unfortunately, with one foot in each genre, its legs are spread so far apart it loses its footing and does itself a mischief.

After wading through the poor scripting and acting (which never gets any better) of the semi-animated intro which introduces players to the concept of the EyePet explorer’s club, you can call the eponymous EyePet into your living room, kitchen, stranger’s garden etc. This is achieved via the ‘Magic Card’, a sturdy, um, card marked with the iconic EyePet pawprint. Place the Magic Card on a flat surface (the game insists this should be your floor), point the PSP camera at it from a safe distance, and the game knows where to magic up the AR trickery.

When you load (and, unexpectedly, install) the game for the first time, you can’t actually do very much with your adorable bundle of fluff. You can make him/her/it follow an icon around the floor, take photos as and when you wish of your new friend wandering around the environment, and… that’s about it. This is where the explorer craft comes in. Thanks to the magic of AR, it breaks up through the floor and takes your EyePet down to a surreal world containing creatures such as giant snails, octopodes, and hanging vines ready to ensnare the unwary. If you live in a flatblock and your child starts giving the family downstairs strange looks after playing this game, you know why.

In the foreground is the official Critical Gamer EyePet, Tim. In the background is a graphical glitch.

Despite carrying the ominous name of The Underworld, this is not a place of danger, suspense and fun. It is in fact a place of, well… boredom. You move the craft (piloted by a generic EyePet silhouette) around this environment with the analogue stick or d-pad, collecting EyePet tokens that act as the game’s currency and items suspended in bubbles. You also… no, actually, that’s all you do. Although you unlock and buy upgrades for the craft which let you through previously impassable areas, and there is some basic interaction with objects and creatures now and again, the overly simplistic principle remains the same. Despite this the lack of any kind of map prolongs the agony longer than necessary, meaning many an older family member will be roped in to cover this part of the game.

This screenshot makes things look much more exciting than they are; and you're right, it isn't a very exciting screenshot.

The good news is that you should unlock well over half of the game’s content (including all six AR games) within an hour of play, and you can retreat to the inside of the craft – which acts as a sort of hub – at any time. It is here that you spend collected tokens on craft upgrades (you can buy new colours for it too – woo-hoo!) and clothes for your EyePet. Most interaction – or, more accurately, lack thereof – with your furry friend takes place here too. Want your EyePet to go to sleep? Go to the appropriate area, press triangle, and watch it sleep till you wake it up or quit the game. Want to feed it? Go to the appropriate area, press X, and watch as cookies fall into the food bowl and the EyePet eats them. Want to wash your EyePet? Select the appropriate area, press the triangle button, and watch steam crawl over a shower curtain. Doesn’t that sound like huge fun for your child? In all fairness, young kids will enjoy buying and using the various costumes, colours and styles for the EyePet; but that’s hardly a game in itself with great longevity.

Returning to the Surface (i.e. your floor) after enough time looting the Underworld will allow you to dive into the AR games, each with three levels of difficulty. The obligatory target shoot with moving targets is well done, and the only game that encourages you to move the PSP around for success – and is therefore the game most likely to frustrate young gamers as they find the camera loses its ideal line of sight with the Magic Card, and the play area disappears. Collecting treasure by hopping from raft to raft while tentacles attack isn’t nearly as exciting as it sounds, and digging for treasure on a desert island while scaring away crabs is distinctly ‘meh’. Defending a mini castle from rats while avoiding scaring off the knights who toddle in is a nice idea, but too easy; and herding two types of sheep (white run away from you, black follow you) into pens is well done and again a good idea, but not one that will hold interest for days or even hours.

This is the game that briefly threatens to hold your interest for more than a few minutes.

You can simply have your EyePet wander around the play areas without activating the games. This is a nice touch, and makes for new photo opportunities (you can take pictures at any time during gameplay, including the Underworld, which are saved as jpegs on the memory stick). It’s far from enough to save the game however, which suffers from a chronic lack of content and, most unforgivable of all, a distinct lack of fun and interesting ways to interact with your EyePet. Even the small selection of AR games are less complicated – and fun – than those which come pre-installed, for free, on the 3DS.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

4 comments

  1. Slacker /

    Are you really complaining that a game for a platform which is 7 years old is “less complicated” than a game on the 3DS released this year?

    • Some of the best games ever created are incredibly simple; just look at Tetris. The lack of complication is not a problem – but the lack of fun is.

      Besides, the age of the format has nothing to do with the potential for intelligent and inventive game design. I’m going to stick my neck out and say that the original Deus Ex – coming up eleven years old now – is a little more complicated than EyePet Adventures.

  2. I think that your review misses a very important point. This game´s target audience are children. My 5 year old twins love it, and I do think that the addition of an underground maze exploration adds a lot to the virtual pet genre, as it finally there is some goal to achieve on the game.

    My kids have been playing the game for several weeks, they collect coins and objects undergroung which they then use to either upgrade the explorer or to play with their Eyepet, by buying clothes, accessories, haircuts, etc.

    Really, the PSP is seriously missing in the very young player market and this games delivers. Poor acting aside, having someone explain the game for kids who still can´t read, is a major benefit and that is why it is there.

    So, don´t buy this if you are looking for 100 hours of advanced game play, but look into it if you are ready to move to the PS Vita and want to leave your old PSP to your young kids/brothers/sisters/nephews.

    • I have two young kids of my own (six and three). If your kids are loving it, that’s great – I’m happy for them. I feel confident that many young children will have completely the opposite reaction however; it certainly didn’t hold much interest for mine.

Leave a Reply