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Sean Pettibone

EyeToy: Antigrav (PS2)


By Michael Palisano

Most EyeToy games released to date have largely focused on the novelty of the technology, with most consisting of short mini-games. These were very cool technology demos, but didn't have the depth or challenge of traditional games. Now, along comes developers Harmonix, who in conjunction with SCEA have released EyeToy: Antigrav, a futuristic hover-board title that almost realizes the potential of the device. With multiple stunt moves, large challenging tracks and sophisticated design, Antigrav is the most-polished, deepest EyeToy title to date. Unfortunately, the vision may be ahead of its time, thanks to the flaky controls and awkward head movement steering interface. So, are these problems alone enough to ruin the game? Join us as we shred the skies and find out the answer.

Harmonix, the innovative team behind the cult music titles Frequency and Amplitude, have pushed the technical envelope once again with a title that uses Sony's intriguing EyeToy technology in unique ways. Unlike the simple mini-games in most other EyeToy titles, this fully implemented title offers plenty of depth and challenge. Set in the distant future, EyeToy: Antigrav lets you hop on a futuristic hover-board and ride through an array of urban environments in an action-packed race. There are two basic modes of play in Antigrav, a speed mode, which is a traditional racing game where the object is to reach the finish line as fast as possible. There's also a Style mode, where players are judged on points and are encouraged to rack up massive combos and cool stunts. Players can select from eight different characters, each with their own unique attributes. The basic gameplay is relatively straightforward, and shouldn't pose much of a problem for most players. As you begin, you find yourself hovering on the ground. Your first object is to hop on one of the neon sky-rails. These allow you to roll through the courses much faster by grinding over them and gaining speed and points as you hit the target icons. The challenge here is that the targets are placed at different levels, requiring the player to adjust their height in order to hit them. Hitting targets of the same color in sequential order increases your score and adds to your character's speed. As you glide along the courses, you can also jump through or duck under obstacles using simple body movements. It sounds easy, but the course-designs can be quite complicated later on. Players will also find a number of Launch Pads on each level, where you are thrust into the skies above the cities, and can then fly through rings and hit airborne targets. Antigrav's level design gives the player an impressive sense of freedom, which is enhanced by the game's expansive environments and open-ended course design with some hidden areas.

In addition to hitting targets and riding rails, the game allows players to perform numerous tricks including spins, grabs, and flips as they race through the cities. For a game with such a simple interface, the trick system is surprisingly robust with tons of moves allowing for plenty of individual style and variety. The simpler moves are relatively easy to perform, but you can increase your score exponentially by flipping multiple times and combine these simple moves together for even more points, such as spinning a 360 while flipping. In addition to this, each character in the game has a unique super-trick that they can perform, making the gameplay even more challenging. Players can also collect a number of power-ups such as extra points, score multipliers, and trick enhancements in each level of the game. The moves sets and stunts give Antigrav plenty of depth and makes for a challenging title, though nothing you really haven't seen before. While the early levels basically act as extended tutorials, later on the layouts become much more challenging to master. It's unique EyeToy interface makes it feel quite different from most other titles on the market.

Unlike the previous EyeToy titles that projected an image of the player onto the screen, Antigrav lets the player control an onscreen character that mimics their moves. Players never actually see their own image in the game, giving it a more immersive feel. At the beginning of each game, players can calibrate the system so it reads their head movements and arm locations. Setting up the game was relatively easy, though we needed to adjust the light levels several times before getting it right. Fortunately, Antigrav features a 'dim room' setting which made it much easier to find an acceptable configuration. Players with especially dark or cluttered areas can also trick the system somewhat by holding a bright piece of paper of wearing white gloves. However, the added sensitivity of head movements added some additional problems. During the game, you steer the character using your head movements and perform stunts by moving your arms in different locations. It takes some getting used to the system, but a quick tutorial will help you get up to speed. You won't immediately be able to perform the more complicated moves, but the gameplay gets much easier as you become accustomed to the system. While the system generally works well, we experienced some problems with the responsiveness that detracted from the game's overall feel. The biggest problem came with the head tracking system, which seemed a little too sensitive causing the character to steer wildly out of control. The arm movements were also a little slow in registering quick movements, which made it somewhat frustrating when confronted with the faster areas. It was definitely a process of trial and error to get an acceptable level of performance, and even then, we found Antigrav's tracking features a little quirky in terms of control and responsiveness.

Once you have the EyeToy working and set up properly, we were able to focus on the game's design and visuals, which were above our expectations. As you'd expect from Harmonix, the level designs were stylish and detailed with many creative and interesting areas to explore. The game moves at an excellent frame-rate with some excellent use of light sourcing and special effects giving it a slick look. Antigrav's urban environments are beautifully rendered to create an excellent underground feel. Grinding over the rails causes quite a rush, and the dizzying camera angles add to the sense of speed. However, the flying areas are the most impressive part of the game, where you have a tremendous sense of freedom with an impressive overhead view of each level. Antigrav's hip characters and elaborate level design come to life with a consistent look and feel between all elements allowing players immerse themselves into this futuristic world quite easily. The game's techno soundtrack, performed by electronica legends Apollo 440 fits the game's overall mood and frenetic pace perfectly, complimenting the action and enhancing the rush while not overwhelming it. Eye Toy Antigrav's solid production values are excellent, giving it a unique look and feel that places players right into the action.

This solidly entertaining title offers a much deeper and more challenging experience than most of the simpler EyeToy titles have to date. The game's racing action and deep tricks system makes for an exciting game. However, the controls needed a little bit of work, and it required multiple attempts to find just the right balance of light. Once this was accomplished, the controls still seemed a little off, suffering from slight lags that made the game less responsive than it could have been. Fortunately, these configuration problems and glitches can be compensated for and once you get used to them, these issues didn't seriously detract from the overall experience. While it's not perfect, EyeToy Antigrav is an interesting game that largely succeeds in taking this innovative camera technology in a new direction. It doesn't live up to the potential of its ambitions, but this is still a solidly entertaining title that deserves a look from players looking for something different and innovative.

Grade: B-

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