Sony's EyeToy is a unique peripheral that allows gamers to truly become part of the game. EyeToy works by using a camera that projects the player's image onto the screen. Using their own body movements, gamers can interact with objects in the game. In fact, you don't need a controller at all, even for menu selection. This makes EyeToy instantly accessible for players of all abilities. With the right lighting and sitting at the correct distance, the EyeToy works well. There are a dozen mini-games on the disc, offering a variety of addictive mini-games including fighting, sports, and dancing titles. EyeToy is a surprisingly fun device, and it's quite addictive for single players or groups. Join us and discover why this clever PS2 device is more than a gimmick.
Innovation in gaming controllers comes in two distinct flavors: Some devices are gimmicks that never really escape their pigeonhole, while other introduce entirely new ways of playing that become standard. For example, vibrating force feedback technology was initially seen as a cheesy gimmick. However, it's become accepted and is now standard equipment on most consoles these days. On the other hand, you have failed experiments that ended up adding little to the gameplay experience once the novelty wore off. Virtual Reality is the most famous example of this reccuring phenomenon, with most experiments with it rarely delivering on its promise. Sony's EyeToy camera for the PS2 is another in a long line of these innovative ideas and promises to radically change the way players interact with their games. Which path will the latest technology take? At this point, it's too early too tell, but the technology is very interesting and comes packaged with some clever games that showcase the EyeToy's potential.
Developed by Sony's European development house, the EyeToy device itself is a small camera that you set up and place near your television or monitor. Players then see themselves projected onto the screen. Instead of the standard controller interface, you can interact with games using your own body movements such as moving your arms and legs. It's solid piece of technology that makes you feel more immersed in the games. Setting up the camera is relatively simple. EyeToy connects to the PS2's USB port and then you place it above or below the television. Getting the proper distance can be a bit tricky, but trial and error should be able to find a comfortable spot. In order for it to work properly, you must be about 5 or 6 feet away from the camera. Otherwise, your image will take up too much space on the screen. You can also adjust the camera angle by moving the camera up and down. You have to make sure that the lighting in your room is quite bright, or else the device will have great difficulty recognizing your image. Once you have the proper distance and height, you can adjust the camera focus by turning the ring until you have a sharp image. After the basic setup is complete, you'll find the interface remarkably easy to use. You use your hands to navigate through the menus, and can select items by waving your hands over the icons rapidly. In order to exit from a mini-game or to return to the main menus, you can place your hand over the entire camera. The interface is remarkably intuitive, and most players should have very little trouble jumping right in.
Now that you understand how the EyeToy works, you can begin playing the games. The EyeToy: Play disc includes 12 different mini-games that cover many different genres. Most of these can be enjoyed by solo gamers or with a group of friends. The games themselves are simple to play and understand, though you can also go through a quick tutorial to get the lowdown on each. Most of these are indeed very simple, but that doesn't mean they aren't fun or addictive. For beginning players, you might want to start with the window washing game, where the object is to move your arms around and clean all the panes. You can also earn bonus points in this one by cleaning up the dirt smudges or stopping a demon that appears on the screen. The faster you clean the windows, the higher your score, and things can get manic in a hurry. Sports fans will enjoy the Soccer Craze mini-game where you have to keep the balls in the air and can knock out hooligans that appear on the side of the screen. For pure skill, there's a cool plate-spinning game where you have to keep the plates in motion, but can't let them drop off their poles. Spin them too fast, and you'll make them fly off the screen. Fighting gamers will probably enjoy the Boxing Chump game where you battle against a robot in three rounds, dodging the robot's punches while waiting for the perfect time to hit him. Another fighting game is included and is called Kung Foo, here you have to swat ninjas that come at you from the side of the screen and can break boards in the bonus level.
Players will also be able to challenge two music themed mini-games. The simpler one is Beat Freak. There are four speakers in each corner and CD's begin to fly out from the center of the screen as they reach the center of each. The closer they are when they hit, the higher your score, but if you miss one, your style bar decreases. EyeToy's other music based mini-game is more sophisticated and is dance oriented. In this one, called Disco Stars, you follow the lead of an onscreen dancer and have to replicate her moves in time to the music by hitting the flashing disco lights and you'll definitely need a good sense of rhythm for this game. Disco Stars of the more challenging mini-games on the EyeToy: Play disc because you have to anticipate what's coming next, requiring a great deal of attention. The other mini-games include outer-space, fireworks, and haunted houses which gives a good variety of different gameplay styles. There's a good balance between very simple games, and somewhat more complex ones, which should increase the longevity. While the mini-games are relatively easy to learn, they increase in difficulty the longer you play, making for more challenging gameplay once you get the hang of the basics. This well-rounded selection means that most players should be able to find one that appeals to them.
In addition to the mini-games, players can do other things with the EyeToy. There's a cool playground mode, where you can move around while special effects enhance the image. You can also play in a virtual fishtank, bounce balls and other fun activities. The other major feature is video messaging. This records your voice in addition to video. Using this feature, you can record a short message from 10 to 60 seconds long and save it to your memory card. Once you're done recording your message, you can trade it with a friend. These takes up a lot of space on your memory card, limiting the number of messages you can store, but it's still a great idea and a perfect use for the camera. Unfortunately, there are a few minor problems that detract slightly from the Eye Toy's impressive technology. The image quality is decent, but not as sharp as you'd expect it to be. This isn't really that much of a problem since you're concentrating on the gameplay, not how sharp you look. A bigger problem lies in the recognition, which can be erratic, sometimes reading your movements, while other times barely registering on the screen. This is especially annoying after spending a lot of time trying to achieve a decent level of lighting. We found a good solution to be holding a small piece of white paper in our hands, which definitely made a big difference in the EyeToy picking up our movements. These issues aside, these glitches are sporadic, and don't really detract from what is an impressive technology that generally works as promised. While many innovations have come and gone over the years, the EyeToy shows a tremendous amount of potential and it would be a shame if this idea falls by the wayside. The camera itself easy to set up and operate, and definitely brings you right into the action. While the mini-games included on the disc tend towards the simple, this accessibility makes the technology user-friendly. It would be easy to dismiss the EyeToy as a cheap gimmick but the games themselves are quite entertaining and the technology itself is quite cool. Sony's EyeToy offers something complete unique in today's market, and it's definitely worth a look for players who want to experience something different.