Going into this, I thought I might enjoy various aspects of this title, since games like Nintendogs endeared itself to me when I first picked it up to play. The idea of having a little virtual companion always there and willing to play a little bit is a cool one, and Nintendo proved this point. They also perfected this idea, and frankly, no one else since then has even come close. Unfortunately, that is still not the case. Inevitable comparisons to Nintendogs aside, Eye Pet for the PSP is a game that, like others in its little niche genre, holds much promise, but fails miserably in execution.
First off, the camera peripheral for the PSP comes with the game, which is awesome. Of course, that is probably the only way Sony would get this game into the hands of people, because I sure wouldn’t buy the game and the camera each separately. The camera itself feels like I’m going to snap it in half whenever I touch it. It looks sturdy, but feels like it was MacGyver’d together with toothpicks and some duct tape. Surprisingly, the images and video you take with it are pretty sharp, so definitely no complaints there, for what it is – a camera for a portable game system. It’s a lot better than the built-in cameras on the DSi, that’s for sure.
The idea of Eye Pet for the PSP is that you have a cuddly little monkey-dog thing to play with. I’m sorry, that’s the best way to describe this abomination of nature. However, s/he is pretty cute, that’s for sure. This game is considered “augmented reality”, so you can play with your pet in the real world by way of a combination of a camera, and a point of reference that the game uses, which comes in the form of a card with a big paw print on it. This card comes packaged with the game, as well, and must be visible to the camera without obstruction the entire time your pet is playing in the real world. This, in and of itself, is pretty cool. I loved the whole idea of it when I first started.
Aside from prancing your pet around on your living room floor, your front yard or your desk, you can put your pet in its home, as well. This doesn’t require the card or the camera. In the pet’s home you can play games, change their hair color and length, record a call which is played back way too often when you want your pet to do something, teach them to draw and some other things, as well.
I’m a big fan of customization, so the part where you get to change your pet’s hair color and length was fun to play with for a bit. There are a few mini-games in here to play, as well, such as a horribly designed racing game that has controls so clunky you’ll want to throw your PSP against the nearest wall. You can also teach your pet to draw very specific things. I initially selected to teach my pet to draw a car. Even though I drew it exactly like the game told me on a piece of white paper, the camera could never pick it up to translate it in-game. The boat I had better luck with. There are other things, as well. The problem is, you have to apparently draw them exactly like they tell you to in-game, and there is no room for creativity. It would have been nice if you could choose to draw whatever you want, and have your pet mimic your drawing.
There are a lot of games you can play outside your pet’s home, as well, the most interesting of which is a treasure hunt. Different real-world environments supply different treasures to be found, and this is the absolute best use of this “augmented reality” concept in the entire game. Another game I enjoyed for its depth is the trampoline game, where you bounce your pet between four trampolines set up around your card. The point here is to pop balloons, which can appear at three different heights. When they appear between trampolines, you have to know exactly when to bounce your pet between the two to reach the height of the balloon. The longer your pet stays bouncing on a single trampoline, the higher it goes. So, that was fun for a few minutes.
The problem with many of these games and actions is that the game forces you to repeat the pet call you make when you first get your pet, by pressing the R1 button. I tried three or four different “calls”, because it can be literally whatever you want, and they all got annoying after only a short while. It would have been nicer had the game provides a smattering of different sounds – perhaps some soft chimes or something – that you could choose from as your pet call, instead of requiring you to use the camera’s mic to record your own.
Overall, though, all these mini-games provide what appears to be a lot of content, but the games are pretty shallow, with the exception of one or two. And, these seem to be the only things you can do with your pet. Although, the thrill of checking out new environments with your pet, and seeing its cute animations and sounds has to count for something, right?
My biggest issue with this entire experience is the loading times. Good-freaking-Lord I have never in my life played a PSP game with such atrocious loading times. From game boot up until I’m able to play with my pet takes literally four minutes. FOUR MINUTES. I kid you not, folks. On top of that, there is a longer-than-normal loading time when you bring up the main menu, and it takes about 30 seconds to move from the real world into your pet’s home, and vice versa. Loading games takes about the same amount of time. The experience itself isn’t all that impressive, but these loading times just completely deflate the small bits and pieces that were enjoyable.
Don’t get me wrong, like I mentioned, there is a lot of games to do with your pet, and for the patient, perhaps a lot of value to be had here. But, this is a game designed for kids, and most kids I know have short attention spans – it just comes with the territory. I can’t really see kids sitting through these atrocious load times without moving on to another activity entirely. The pet is cute and all, and the customization is great, but even with a decent amount of content, the rest of the game just falls flat from being anything more than a passing fad just because it comes with a fancy camera and uses big phrases like “augmented reality”. I’d still rather pop in my copy of Nintendogs over this any day, simply because it is a more intuitive, and less frustrating, experience.
- Title: Eye Pet PSP
- Platform Reviewed: PSP
- Developer: SCE London Studio
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
- Release Date: November 2, 2010
- MSRP: $39.99
- Review copy info: A copy of this title was provided to DualShockers, Inc. by the publisher for the purpose of this review.