This review was provided by freelance writer Adam Riley.
Do you remember Tamagotchi, the craze that swept the world back in the early 90s? Well, clearly the world has come a long way since the days of that little egg sitting in the palm of your hand with a blocky little critter blinking at you. Although not quite as far as you may imagine when you start EyePet & Friends for the first time and are greeted with…an egg! An egg that has to be warmed sufficiently with what looks basically like a hairdryer – a feature that is common throughout this nintendogs-a-like pet caring simulation, where the Move controller shown on-screen can change into all manner of different objects, much to the amusement of the younger audience this is clearly aimed at.
After being told to adjust the PlayStation Eye camera, pointing it towards the ground and letting the game know exactly where your floor is using specific positioning of the Move controller, magically a queer looking creature pops out of its shell and lands on your carpet (thanks to the wonders of Augmented Reality). This is the main draw of EyePet & Friends, the fact that whereas with something like nintendogs there was always a feeling of detachment – until the more recent auto-stereoscopic 3D edition that is – here young children can be drawn further into the atmosphere of the game due to the illusion of the freakish Tellytubby rejects rolling around, leaping about, snuggling up, and doing all sorts of crazy activities in your own familiar surroundings.
For this latest iteration, Sony has taken on-board requests from owners of previous iterations and included support for an extra pet during the same play session, thanks to the use of a second Move controller, and watching the two interact with each other notches up the ‘aww’ factor tremendously. Ignoring the overzealous announcer that animatedly explains every tiny aspect of the game in excruciating detail can be tough, especially as he also nudges with monotonous repetition if the controller is left untouched for a short period of time, yet when that hurdle has been overcome, there is quite a considerable dose of depth to what may otherwise appear to be a shallow experience. When the Move technology works exactly as it should do, which can be tough in darkened rooms that are not conducive to the PlayStation Eye obtaining a clear image and connection with the Move sensor, the actual joy encountered whilst wiggling fingers in the air to make the EyePet jump, tapping on the floor to make it trot excitedly in that direction, or stroking the critter until it nods off, is extraordinary; each new interactive gesture seems so intuitive and natural.
EyePet & Friends is by no means solely for young children, however, with big kids also taking pleasure in the nurturing antics. It is also the latter group that may be better suited to dealing with the lengthy waiting period between each activity, the only major subject of concern to be found in this otherwise adorable simulation. Strangely enough, there are substantial moments of downtime as you wait for menu screens to pop up, items to be changed, and so on. Do not worry about your PS3 being faulty – this is purely down to the game itself as there have indeed been other reports from users related to this frustrating problem. Unfortunately, no matter how cute the loading screens are, this is actually enough of a bugbear to warrant marginally marking down what is a highly enjoyable game. To give some indication of how lengthy they are, large chunks of this review were actually written during the waits between sections! The positive news is that a reward is given to those who are patient enough to endure the waiting times, with EyePet Tokens being accrued for almost every little action, toy played with, outfit created or customised, or play mode tackled, currency that can then be used to open up even more new elements to play around with, as well as grant more options for customisation in the Creativity Centre.
Speaking of the Creativity Centre, it is a hub for players to design their own toys and costumes, plus even craft adventure playgrounds from blocks and shapes in various themes (outer-space, oriental structures, winter scenes, and several more) that are placed across five by six grids where the EyePets can frolic in, all as part of maintaining both their health and happiness. It should be noted for those with a sadistic disposition that no, there is not an opportunity to leave your pet to perish. There is no chance of finding a rotting corpse after a few weeks away. However, coming back after a few days does leave them hungry and even a tad whiffy, definitely in need of a good shampoo, scrub down, rinse and blow. On a similar topic, doing regular health checks can reveal problems with its heart (feeling lonely, for instance), or stomach (starving due to neglectful owners), although more interestingly is how there is a recommendation for what activity to try next, providing some much needed guidance in such an open-ended game. Learning tricks is one particular recommendation early on, and is probably one of the cutest parts of EyePet & Friends with there being nothing better later in the game than seeing your little pet playing with a toy of your own making (drawing the outline on blueprints by hand with the Move pointer, or allowing the game to auto-fill them), dressed in crazy costumes of your making, and then reacting to all of the directional markings you can make on screen with the pointer to get them to react in particular ways (hide their face, roll over, jump, pull of funky dance manoeuvres). The sense of satisfaction garnered is wonderful indeed.
Playing solo can grow tiresome quickly, as expected with most games of this ilk, but thankfully there is the option to have a second person control the other EyePet created, as well as there being the chance to share anything from your imagination with the world online, let friends see photographs taken and video clips recorded, whilst receiving items in return, with there being a wholesome community feeling throughout. Finally, to ensure there is even more longevity available than in previous EyePet outings, there are plenty of challenges, with shooting hoops, submarine racing and coin collecting, hooking ducks, intergalactic trips, and more, all of which can be viewed through 3D televisions.
All-in-all, Sony has worked wonders in the pet simulation genre, taking what may well have looked like a meagre copycat of nintendogs and Tamagotchi and transformed it into something special in its own right. If it was not for the highly frustrating loading times between every menu change, which could perhaps be eventually sorted via an update patch further down the line, this would be instantly recommended. However, before buying this for your child during the holidays, take a small moment to ponder over their patience levels before dipping into your pockets. After all, an EyePet is not just for Christmas, it’s for life…
MLG Rating: 7/10
Platform: PS3 Release Date: 18/11/2011
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a physical copy of EyePet & Friends for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of two days on a PS3. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.