Nick Burgess
18 Jan, 2006

EyeToy: Groove Review

PS2 Review | Touch the rhythm.
The EyeToy first burst onto the scene back in 2003, a crazy contraption literally putting players into the game via the USB camera, that has since grown into a family of camera-centric titles. Usually the titles are a combination of random mini games specifically designed to take advantage of the Eye Toy camera, this time around Sony Computer Entertainment Europe have taken one concept and fleshed it out into a fully fledged game. Eye Toy Groove, essentially an updated and advanced version of the EyeToy Play mini game “Beat Freak,” is the first rhythmic dancing title that takes advantage of the camera’s functions and gives you a reason to break out the old, black peripheral once again…but for how long?

For the game-challenged, the EyeToy is a camera that uses one of the PS2’s USB ports to project video footage of the gamer onto the TV screen and basically, put them into the game. The mini games themselves don’t last very long - as goes that story of the EyeToy - because of how the unrelenting gameplay quickly leads the player down the path of exhaustion.

The main game has a very similar concept to Dance Dance Revolution and Pump It Up. Icons scatter from the centre of the screen in the direction of any one of 6 sensors and the gamer touches the sensor in time as the icon passes over the capture area. The action is mixed up with special icons such as a motion quota icon that has to be tickled until its tail (giving the icon a ‘cone’ look) runs out (similar to the freeze arrows of DDR). There are directional icons where you must drag your hand across the screen whichever way you’re instructed and also an icon makes its way between sensors, bridging a gap between the two, indicating that a touch anywhere in that arc is acceptable. The sensors react quite swiftly to any detected motion, so you need to be precise to get a high score, on the other hand, this makes it easy for players to sustain some kind of momentum, especially in the higher difficulties.

At around the halfway mark of a song, a “Freestyle” segment takes place where you can move freely and crazily around the screen with the aid of psychedelic visuals to keep you grooving’, which in turn builds up more points if you can sustain a fast momentum. “Pose” is another instance where you temporarily take a break from the action and you have to move your hand into the capture area of two icons when they stop to trigger another bonus. Combos are achieved when you manage 4 perfects in a row. Proficient DDR, PIU and Samba De Amigo or equally physically strenuous yet precise rhythmic game players, will find this is just like riding a bike. For novice players, the difficulty of hand-eye-camera coordination might be a little overwhelming, but after a couple of songs you should be well immersed into the world of EyeToy Groove schematics. All people will take time to adjust to the camera element of it, but those with a rhythmic gaming background will pick this up faster than those without.

Eye Toy Groove – The Icons Within

Eye Toy Groove – The Icons Within
On paper, the single player game offers up a similar single player experience as DDR. In practice though, it becomes old, fast, and ultimately is a lacklustre experience. Choose your song, choose your difficulty and you’re away. Whether it’s that the soundtrack is compiled of commercially released songs, as opposed to the crazy beats of a standard DDR song or that moving your arms and hands so much, even on the easiest level, takes more physical exertion to get through than it does for a Dance Dance Revolution tune – Eye Toy Groove’s single player game just doesn’t have that addictive quality that has made DDR an international hit.

Fortunately, a wealth of multiplayer awaits you and it is actually more fun than DDR multiplayer, which is essentially the DDR single player game x2. The first and biggest sect is ‘Tournament’ which pits you against your friends in 4 different ways. Three modes have you trying to outdo another player’s high score, which includes ‘Copycat’ in which you must memorize a sequence of button flashes and repeat them yourself, ‘Frenzy’ where icons come thick and fast and accuracy isn’t a factor and ‘Perfection’ where timing is everything, you must land a ‘perfect’ at every hit – 3 strikes and you’re out. ‘Tag’ starts off like a single player game – 1 person grooving away – but then a picture of another player will flash on screen, signifying a player swap, the new player takes over until another picture flashes and they have to swap and so on. This mode is easily the most fun and gets extremely hectic with the frantic swapping of players.

Other multiplayer modes include ‘Team Sync,’ which plays like the main game, except built as a co-op mode, containing more icons than in a single player game. The idea here is to divide and conquer as a duo and synchronise your movements so that you and your partner hit the icons and not each other’s faces – a LOT harder than it sounds. Then of course you have ‘Battle Sync,’ that has a similar set up to Team Sync, but instead the players are in competition against each other, as the title suggests. Players are assigned either blue or red icons and have to hit their respective colours when they appear – the person with the highest score wins.

The extra option that is the ‘Dance Move Maker’ will make any Eye Toy/Rythmic game junkie boogie with delight, as making you own moves has never been easier. The sensors position themselves, the song begins and you’re off – just wave your hands wherever you want to register a move. Simplicity does come at a price though, when you’ve made your crazy routine up and now you want your friend to try and conquer your arm movements of doom, you will find yourself saying “I didn’t do that” or “I tickled that icon, I didn’t turn it into a sweeping icon” – that’s because it would appear that the ‘Dance Move Maker’ can sometimes be inaccurate when registering exactly what movements you make. An uncomplicated string of actions with minimal, if any, ‘special’ moves will deliver a verbatim routine for friends to follow.

You can’t look that chic in multiplayer, unless you’re trying to fail

You can’t look that chic in multiplayer, unless you’re trying to fail
If you’ve expended your last morsel of energy in the main game, locate the Chill Out Room option and you’ll find a couple of nifty extras. A mode without music, where you get to mess around with the on-screen psychedelic visuals whilst batting two circles around the screen. You can also mess around with the visuals for a single song or shuffle through the entire soundtrack whilst grooving to the visuals. Some select songs from the soundtrack make an appearance as film clips, but once again, it’s not the best selection. Although you do get two updated Elvis film clips, the rest are really just throw-away pop.

Oh, but like any Eye Toy game, it isn’t all special effects and hilarity, a variety of improvements could have been implemented to make the game on par with other music titles. The most aggravating element that is a real killjoy to the overall game is menu navigation. While it does support controller input when selecting difficulty and songs, you have to tickle the icons to move from one menu to the next and let it be known – this is not a walk in the park. Sometimes it will register your tickle quickly and concisely but the process of moving from one menu to the next usually it takes about 5 – 10 seconds (and not a quick 5 seconds either, we’re talking 1…2…3 etc) Obviously included to make sure there are no accidental hits that would otherwise throw you into menu oblivion, they could have definitely shortened the time it takes to churn between screens.

The soundtrack is mostly made up of songs that were a hit at one time or another, except they aren’t exactly what you come to expect or really want to hear when playing a rhythm game. Can you imagine playing Dance Dance Revolution or Osu Tatakae Ouendan with “Hooray Hooray it’s a Cheeky Holiday” blaring out of the speakers? Immediately, there are over 25 licensed songs to choose between ranging from 70s and 80s classics to semi-recent Madonna and Jamiroquai, to ‘has been’ (never were) British pop bands such as Five, Misteeq and Liberty X. There is no real theme to the soundtrack, but the obvious intention here was to draw people of all ages and sexes to have a go at shaking their groove thang. After a couple of goes, you will probably never want to hear the songs again, unless of course you are already sick of them, which puts a serious damper on the game as a whole – because rhythmic music games are all about catchy, non-annoying tunes that you can play to over and over again without going crazy. How many times will you be able to hear ‘Music’ by Madonna before doing a Van Gough on your ears?

Do not try this at home

Do not try this at home
Another problem is the capture area over the sensors. It is either too inaccurate or too generous – take your pick, because either way, you’ll get screwed out of a high score. Your hands (or other body parts you’re using) have to be in time with the EXACT moment the icons covers the sensors, which is difficult, since the icon must make it to the centre of the sensor for a perfect. When making contact with the sensors outer rim, that triggers a hit, so you may actually be in time with the song, but always half a second off the icons. On the flipside of this, for young, new or simply untalented players, this characteristic is very welcomed, as it allows ample time to see, move and register a hit with the icon.

The obvious buzz with this game is the ability to see yourself dancing on television, which you definitely get to experience, even if the feed from the camera is a little fuzzy at times. In relation to Eye Toy games, it is definitely one of the better titles that will have you coming back to beat that high score, but in relation to other music/dancing/rhythmic games it comes out above average. There are better, there are worse, but it is the only music game built for the Eye Toy. Nowadays, Dance Dance Revolution/Dancing Stage titles for the PS2 come with Eye Toy support, so the novelty does get lost there, as they are arguably better built games with accurate sensors and more songs. As a standalone title, it does what it set out to do, which is give the gamer a musical Eye Toy experience, albeit with some hiccups throughout.
The Score
There is better, there is worse and since this title has been drastically reduced (Seen it camera-less for $20) it’s worth a look into if you’re struggling for a title to purchase to shake things up a little. 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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