In the past, peripherals geared toward making video games more ďinteractiveĒ have been clumsy and expensive, and frankly, didnít work at all like they were advertised. Remember the Activator, Interactor, Virtual Boy, R-Zone or any of the aborted attempts at bringing immersive 3D headsets to 16-bit gaming? Well, Sonyís Eye Toy is the first of these devices to arrive on the scene as accessible to anyone at all who can get in front of a TV set. While none of the initial games included are all that deep, the technology is immediately impressive in its simplicity and ease of use. For your $50 you get an Eye Toy, a USB camera that plugs into your PS2 and a PS2 Disc, Eye Toy: Play, which contains 12 mini-games and a video messaging function that requires sufficient space on a PS2 memory card (youíll probably want to buy a card just for this feature).
Whatís so cool about Eye Toy is that it opens up gaming to anyone young or old who wouldnít go near a console game previously. Trust me, if you set this up at a party or family gathering, everyoneís going to want to jump in and go crazy slapping Ninjas, setting off fireworks, or spinning plates. Eye Toy: Play not only puts you into the game, it makes you the controller as well. There are 12 games on the Play disc, some good, some not so good, but the interactivity in each of them will give you an definite upper body workout, something Counter-Strike or Quake III deathmatchers canít say about sitting on their asses for hours flirting with carpal tunnel syndrome. Between Sonyís Eye Toy and Konamiís Dance Dance Revolution games, youíve got the perfect gamer exercise plan, but I digress. Hereís what I thought of the 12 games on the Play disc, listed in order of favorites:
Kung Foo: Chop and whack at assorted cartoon enemies as they attack from the left and right. This one is great fun overall with each difficulty level offering up different enemy patterns and tougher bonus stages.
Rocket Rumble: We never got the expanded version of Fantavision that came out in Japan, but this is the next best thing. Wave at colored fireworks and set them off with detonators at the left and right of the screen. Loads of fun especially with a few friends, although I wish there were a bit more to do within the time limit.
Wishi Washi: Yes! ItísÖhyper frantic window washing action for the whole family! It sounds silly, and it is, but itís also fun- and thatís the point. Speed and accuracy are key here as you clean up for big points.
Slap Stream: Smack a bunch of cloud hopping mice silly and avoid hitting the cute bunny girls. The faster you knock Ďem down, the better your score. Short and to the point, yes, but itís definitely addictive in its own way. Who wouldnít want to protect a trio of cuties in bunny suits?
Boxing Chump: Fairly simple side view boxing game against a mechanical opponent. A bit strange in that youíre looking at the screen while swinging away, but you get used to it rather quickly. Pretty short, but definitely a workout and a lot of fun.
Plate Spinner: Spin up to 4 plates, and keep them spinning for a high score, and if you do well, you can maintain a rhythm for even more points. Watch out for monkeys, who make things interesting when you least expect it!
Soccer Craze: Using your head, smack a soccer ball into empty apartment windows to score points while avoiding hitting residents or losing the ball. You can use your hands, but itís more fun to try it the hard way. Score high enough, and you get a second ball to make things interesting. Tricky, especially on hard!
Mirror Time: Tough at first, as youíll look like youíre trying out for Mummenschanz or The Blue Man Group as you try to deal with the screen splits and reversals. Hit the green icons but avoid the red ones as the screen does its wild thing. Very well designed, challenging, yet simple for most anyone once you get the hang of it.
Beat Freak: Slap spinning CDs into speakers at each corner of the screen as cool beats play. The closer the discs are toward the center of the speakers, the better the score you get. Itís a bit odd at first, but if youíre a big fan of import rhythm games, youíll see a bit of a similarity to Konamiís Para Para Paradise.
Disco Stars: Sort of like Simon Says meets Dance Dance Revolution. Pick from a few different songs to dance to as you try to score points while keeping the beat. Frantic it is, but DDR experts will blow through without breaking a sweat. Everyone else (like me) will be reaching for the oxygen bottles, especially on hard.
Ghost Elimination: Too much like Kung Foo for its own good, but with slightly different play mechanics. Grab and crush ghosts and swat off swarms of bats that appear. It seems as if the developers were running out of ideas for harmless fun and stuck this in. I can definitely see the germ of a more polished idea in here, and hopefully itíll be expanded upon.
UFO Juggler: Not as much fun as Plate Spinner, you Spin UFOs, and keep them rotating for points. Should have been added to Plate Spinner as a bonus game, but itís short, and shouldnít keep you too busy for long.
Overall, everything here is as inoffensive an innocuously presented as possible. You can catch a few glimmers of English humor sprinkled throughout, but nothing that could be considered racy. The live action and animation intro that shows how to use Eye Toy is priceless- make sure to sit through it at least once or twice. The graphics go for an anime-inspired look with simple, cartoony character models that feature minimal, yet smooth animation. The sounds and music are fun to listen to- itís clear that the Play disc was designed for worldwide appeal. Gameplay scores high because of the instant accessibility of the games. Again, anyone can jump right in and get into the games here.
As I stated earlier although the mini-games arenít incredibly deep, itís whatís possible with Eye Toy in the future thatís striking. Imagine (Note to Sony: steal this idea) recording fighting moves onto the PS2 hard drive and going up against a CPU opponentís (or another live playerís) moves. Or a Tetris-style or Breakout inspired puzzle game with the player in the center trying not to get walled in. Maybe even a RPG where you stick yourself into the game as a character. The possibilities are endless, and as long as Sony keeps the creativity ball rolling, gamers will continue to see the benefits. If you want the perfect gift for the gamer that has everything except say, a spouse or relative who doesnít quite understand the lure of gaming, Eye Toy is probably the best thing you can get them. Theyíll thank you, and Sony will respond in kind by introducing new and exciting games for it, and thatís always a great thing.
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