That the EyeToy wasn't a Japanese invention came as something of a surprise; that Japanese publishers are now embracing the idea with their own take on webcam gaming doesn't. Next week both Konami and SEGA deliver their first EyeToy games - the latter, SEGA Superstars, being a keenly awaited high profile beast chock full of big name characters and excellent ideas; the former, U-Move Super Sports, landing on our desk with barely a flicker of pre-awareness and minus any Konami characters to pique interest among the faithful. Could it surprise us and somehow steal the crown from both Sony and SEGA? We're always happy to wave our arms around for a few hours in the name of gaming research...
Billed as a "fun, sports-themed" take on EyeToy, the 15 mini-games within are dominated by football, with 10 of those based on the beautiful game, with the remainder based on Golf, Baseball, Rugby, Curling and Horse Racing. As you might expect, it's a bright, quirky, jolly affair that - in theory - anyone can stand up in front of and wave their arms and bob their head and have a blast.
Better than David James
On the football front, for instance, Perfect Goalie places you as the 'keeper, trying to beat out penalty kicks for up to two minutes; but let in three and it's Game Over. Yellow Card takes a leaf out of the grizzled cheating ways of the pro footballer and tasks you with waving your hands as fast as possible in the ref's face to plead your way out of going into the book, although curiously there appear to be five refs on the pitch, with all of them feeling the need to pull out their notebook at various times, and often at the same time. It's fun for a few minutes, but man it makes your wrists ache!
Slightly predictable EyeToy fare comes with the (yawn) ball bouncing game that is Ball Tossing Aliens. The idea being to perform keepy uppies up to 50 times, although if you bounce it yourself three times in a row it explodes. On the 50th it explodes no matter what, so you're meant to make sure they cop it before you do. It sounds better than it is, with sloppy ball detection and feels like yet another EyeToy ball bouncing game...
...So when Heading comes along, it feels a bit mind-numbing to go through the whole premise yet again, this time for the purpose of getting the ball to school, avoiding Venus Fly Traps, swinging Apes, and even trees. Dull wouldn't even begin to describe this one, and, with no actual lives to lose, if you let the ball just bounce free it gets there under its own steam anyway, with minimal loss of points. Not good. To complete the ball-heading tedium, Space Breakout arrives to rub it in, giving players the chance to play Breakout with your head, or elbows, or whatever else you fancy waving around. To absolutely send us into a coma there's Trapping Practice; as balls descend we're supposed to head them into three monkey targets, with more points scored the closer you get to the Bullseye. It's interesting for about the first ten seconds before you realise there's hardly anything to it.
Get ahead, err
A slightly more imaginative use of the whole heading premise comes from Corner Practice, which has the player side on in front of a goal guarded by an Ape, attempting to head the ball past his big furry frame. But like most of the other mini-games included here, collision detection is about as sharp as a marble, and what starts out like a cool idea becomes a somewhat hit and miss affair. Bah.
Moving away (yay!) from heading is Dribbling, which inadvertently becomes a bit of a header game anyway (boo!), by virtue of the fact that you have to knock the ball left and right of cones as the screen scrolls upwards. A decent idea plainly not suited to EyeToy. Ah well. One idea that does come off much better than others is Short Pass Training, which tasks you with passing the ball between four players while an AI player or two tries to intercept, adhering to the usual three strikes and you're out premise.
Another good, but ultimately flawed idea is Sling Shot, which effectively puts you in charge of four pinball bumpers. A ball is kicked into play, and your frantic wavings should - if you're lucky - result in the ball being delivered to the lurking strikers who will boot it into the net. As per usual, if the ball goes out of play (this time via the flippers) it's Game Over. As an aside, we did nearly wet ourselves when we realised that as the ball is initially being delivered, the announcers shouts "EA... PISH!", or something very similar indeed. Priceless.
So, with half of the footy games being heading-based affairs, we were somewhat hopeful the other sports would improve. Would we be waving furiously instead? Errr, yes. Rugby Clash has you trying to beat up the onrushing bulls until their energy bars deplete to zero, with the trick being to wave furiously over them, being careful not to touch players not in possession. Sweep Sweep Curling is a slightly confusing one, tasking the player with waving like mad in the path of the Curling puck so that it has a smoother passage. Only, this didn't really seem to work, and after half a dozen attempts at working it out, we departed in a bit of a fluster. Jockey, meanwhile, is a horserace where you have to whip its arse with your right hand in order to speed it up, and press down on its neck to slow it down. Bizarre, funny, but not actually very playable for some reason.
Waving and drowning
The Golf-based Hole In One has little to do with the actual shot, and more to do with making sure any debris that could slow down the ball doesn't. Another arm waver, and a bit rubbish in truth. The final main game, Batting Frenzy, is one of Konami's better ideas, tasking you with whacking a baseball out of the ground. Frankly, if the previous games had been as much fun, we wouldn't sound so down about the whole thing.
It just feels half-baked, knocked together, with occasional flourishes of humour completely marred by some appalling mini-game designs that feel like square pegs in round holes. Much like the innovative EyeToy: Play, even the ones you like become a tad boring after a few attempts. Unless you've got a crowd of EyeToy virgins present there's going to be little in the way of excitement and probably more than a little accusatory disquiet over the lack of responsiveness to your input. It's not our fault, you know!
We did also have a trawl through the various Art Studio mini-games, but although there are some funky graphical effects in there to have fun with for a while (like the delayed image, which maps out your ever-changing image in a sequence of picture in picture squares), it's evident that the development team couldn't really suss out how to make actual games out of them.
U-Move Super Sports has the feel of a cobbled together package from a team that is only just getting to grips with the technology. Compounded by exceptionally basic visuals and horrifyingly repetitive audio, there's nothing that can redeem the package. As much as we cherish much of Konami's output, this reviewer's hardly surprised he'd never even heard of this product before it arrived. A blot in the copybook.
4 / 10