EyePet • Page 3

Not just for Christmas or just plain not for Christmas?

That's how the tech has to work, of course, but you try explaining that to a peeved seven-year-old who just wants to feed their pet a cookie. My two youngsters were both enchanted by EyePet, and clearly thrilled at the possibilities, but it soon became clear that it was going to be me doing the actual challenges while they watched, shouted instructions and occasionally wiggled their fingers to get the attention of our pet, Trumps (yes, we're a lowbrow brood).

Quantity of content isn't a problem, since you're showered with new toys, costumes and building materials with generous frequency. Curiously, despite the daily structure, you can unlock days and days' worth of stuff just by continuous play - it's more than a little weird to have Science Man popping up to welcome you to Day Four when you've only been playing for an afternoon.

You can also send back Pet Reports by scanning your pet's vital signs - hunger, cleanliness, mental stimulation and exercise - but the game only lets you file a report when all the stats are fine. Not only is this an outrageous example of cherry-picking data (what kind of scientific institute are you running, sir?) but it makes it clear that it's pretty much impossible to do anything too harmful to your pet.

This is the other major flaw in the EyePet design. There's not really anything at stake, and your pet doesn't show any signs of evolution or growth. There are 15 "days" adding up to 60 challenges, but it doesn't take long for them to feel a little samey. Apart from songs, there aren't many persistent skills or tricks your EyePet can be taught, so you're mostly doing stuff for the sake of doing stuff. This is fine in those early days of "Aaah!" and "Oooh!" but it doesn't say much for the long-term prospects of EyePet ownership.

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His bubble is casting a shadow on my floor! What black magic be this?

Tamagotchis may be far less sophisticated, but they provide both a more robust real-time challenge, as well as more incentive to play the doting parent. EyePets all look the same, underneath whatever hairstyles and clothes you choose, and there's neither any danger of them dying nor the potential for them to evolve into something unique.

The lack of online functionality also feels like an opportunity missed. There's an EyePet Store, of course, where you can download new trinkets - some of which will actually be free - but the absence of any social features is baffling. Swapping items would give you more incentive to keep grinding for unlockables, for example, while the option to visit with other EyePets in a separate communal area, thus opening the game up from the patch of carpet in front of the TV, would be most welcome.

You can't even send photos or movie clips to friends from inside the game. You have to first export them to the relevant PS3 folder, and then send them via normal messaging. When Noby Noby Boy can upload clips to YouTube during gameplay, EyePet's poor use of the PS3's online capability is very disappointing.

Of course, a game about a big-eared monkey thing was never going to be all about technical aspirations. That's not how it's supposed to be played - or, more accurately, played with. It's as much a toy as a game and for all the wobbles in the interface and some illogical structural quirks, it's all but impossible to dislike. If you find the concept attractive then there's certainly enough here to warrant further investigation and, when everything clicks, it's as charming an experience as you'll find on the big-boy consoles.

It's just a shame that while EyePet has clearly been designed to stretch the PlayStation Eye hardware, it never tests the boundaries of the virtual life genre with the same vigour.

6 / 10

Read the Eurogamer.net review policy EyePet Dan Whitehead Not just for Christmas or just plain not for Christmas? 2009-10-12T00:00:00+01:00 6 10

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