EyePet is yet another game on PSP utilising its relatively underutilised camera accessory, and it seems like a no-brainer. EyePet is Sony's premier first-party virtual pet simulator, and it uses the PSEye to allow the simian-like EyePet to enter players' living rooms and interact with them in a reasonably sophisticated manner. Does the experience translate on PSP, or is this one monster you won't want anywhere near your pocket?
EyePet begins very much like its other incarnation on PS3, with a doctor (this time animated) presenting you with your very own egg, which soon hatches into an EyePet with some encouragement on your part. The EyePet itself is a creature genetically engineered for cuteness, with the mannerisms and fluff of a kitten, the expressive face of a monkey and the giant round eyes of a Disney character. It's almost nauseatingly adorable, and this is heightened by the fact you can dress him up in the cutest wutest little outfits and hairstyles that are unlocked as you play and 'enjoy' the game. The quotation marks will be explained later. While your EyePet's customisation options are potentially expansive, accessing them is unnecessarily difficult with an unwieldy menu system that forces you to sort through all content, whether its been unlocked or not, in all categories before you can pick the one you were after. You can also take screen captures whenever you like with the square button, which admittedly is a nice touch.
Similar to Invizimals: Shadow Zone, EyePet requires that you lay down a card onto the surface you're going to be playing on, so that the PSP camera can track its position and overlay your EyePet over it. This works quite well, and as long as the card's dark centre block is in view of the PSP's camera, so too will your EyePet remain convincingly attached to the scenery. Unfortunately, since it is relying on this card, it also means you're limited in the ways you interact with the EyePet, as you cannot block the camera's view of the card, so attempting to pat him while he's on it is a no-go. You can lead him away using the analogue nub and the R-button (calling him to the spot using a pre-recorded personalised call, hilariously open for abuse) but then you still have to make sure the card is visible in some corner of the screen, and it gets tricky. Patting him only sometimes works, too, as the game seems to have difficulty detecting how fast your fingers are moving, and their position. If it thinks you're moving them too fast, he'll play with your fingers instead, jumping around. Not that it makes much difference either way, but if you give us a cuddly creature, we expect to be able to cuddle it!
The crux of what you'll be doing in EyePet lies in the mini-games on offer. The problem with all of these is common - that the area you need to play them on is much larger than the surface of the card, and the game will ask you to pull your PSP far back from the card to be able to see the playing area. This makes playing most of the games pretty cumbersome if you're not at home or in a confined space, so you can pretty much forget about getting your kids to play this one on the plane. Bowling lets you bowl your EyePet very slowly into a small collection of pins, Trampoline sees your EyePet hopping between four trampolines to burst balloons, Fishing has your EyePet circling a pond and catching fish and Treasure Hunt has you guiding your EyePet around somewhat haphazardly in search of invisible items to dig up. These are all dead easy, although they're still slow, tedious and frankly boring. Flowers is probably the only one that comes close to resembling a proper game, as you pour water on plants while guiding your EyePet to defend them as bugs try to attack. It's still incredibly easy, but it's a start.
Two other mini-games, namely Sailing and Driving, have a slightly more interesting component, in that they allow you to draw your own boat or car on a sheet of paper (while adhering to a basic shape guideline), which is then recognised by the PSP camera and becomes a proper 3D object for the EyePet to ride. The technology behind this isn't perfect, missing fine detail, but it works well enough. Once again though, the mini-games are just too simple and boring to be of any interest, requiring you to race around exceedingly basic tracks to rack up a number of laps within a set time. Yawn.
The only other components of EyePet are the Home and Health Check. We'll start with the Health Check, which is basically a gimmicky way of detecting whether your EyePet is hungry or needs more attention through X-raying him. It's cool the first time, but a simple menu with information would have sufficed, and been more helpful, considering the EyePet's behaviour doesn't really change even if he's starving. Meanwhile, in the Home, which is the only area which doesn't require the use of the card, you can feed your EyePet by tapping the camera's microphone or wash him by pressing X. You can also view trophies and fish you've caught, as well as drive your car around the circular track of the home, but that's it. That's everything you can do in this game, and almost all of it is entirely boring.
There just isn't really much to do in EyePet. Sure, the little blighter is cute and all, but there's no motivation in keeping him healthy or well-fed, since he's happy just about all the time. You can try your hand at the many mini-games on offer, but they're all dead easy and get tiresome within minutes. Beyond appreciating the novelty factor of the augmented reality at work, there's nothing to keep you involved. Small children will no doubt like the EyePet itself, but if you're getting it for a kid, we'd advise looking into the PS3 version which has more to offer, and allows greater interaction with the creature, as the PSP version really doesn't benefit at all by being portable. Otherwise, stick with your Tamagotchi.