At some point in time, everyone’s dreamt of being a spy. Maybe it’s having access to extremely cool gadgets that no one else can get their hands on. Perhaps it’s the chance to travel the world, living a life of danger and excitement. Or it could be the chance to save the world from criminals and their schemes of global conquest. Regardless of your own motives, Sony’s giving gamers the chance to live out their espionage fantasies thanks to their Eye Toy peripheral. Check your clearance, because we’re going undercover with EyeToy: Operation Spy.
Operation Spy is essentially broken into two separate game modes: the mission side that unfolds the “story” of the game, and the security functions that Operation Spy allows you to engage with the camera. The concept around the missions in the game casts you in the role of a fledgling agent for the S.I.A., the Strategic Intelligence Agency. After establishing your credentials via facial recognition (ensuring that only you can play a game with your profile) and setting your own personal security code, you embark upon your new spy career. For the most part, this comes in the form of tracking down criminals. Initially, you'll be provided with briefing instructions as to what you need to do to track these criminals down, using a number of hi-tech "tools," such as using spy satellites to isolate their position. From there, you might be tasked with skydiving to their location, using your arms to direct your onscreen persona through a number of rings a la Pilotwings before successfully infiltrating their base. Other times, you'll need to decrypt their identity using a special geometric shape called the Cryptogon that rotates based on your hand movement, which you need to stop and lock into place to match certain symbols. Once you have the basic image, you try to match it to a mug shot using a face matching program. Most of these games are timed, with mistakes taking precious seconds away from the clock. What's more, the mini-games do get progressively trickier as you go along, even unlocking additional tasks to perform to catch your crooks.
The other side of the game is the security mode, which you may remember from previous incarnations of EyeToy games, like EyeToy Play 2. Not only can you use the face recognition function to basically lock the screen, but you can use the EyeToy as a security camera, monitoring whenever someone goes past and taking a picture of them. You can also set specific alarm targets on screen "quadrants" that sound alarms and take pictures if anyone trips them. Regardless of whether or not you use the included night vision or infrared modes, it can be somewhat amusing to secretly set up to ten trippable alerts and turn the TV off, waiting for other friends or family members to accidentally set them off. You can also test your personal sneaking skills, seeing just how good you are at snaking around these areas.
There are a couple of significant downsides to Operation Spy, though, that does reduce the enjoyment of the title. The first one is something I previously mentioned: many of the security features are the same ones that were included in EyeToy Play 2, making their re-appearance not really much of a step forward with this mode. In some ways, you're only getting a patched game mode, with a few minor touches. As far as the mission side goes, the mini-games that are included aren't particularly difficult for most gamers (perhaps with the exception of little kids), and the novelty of some of them will quickly wear off once you've done them a couple of times. Add to that the fact that some of the games just don't seem as difficult as other ones (the simple face matching and satellite map games come to mind) and you really can burnout on how shallow the gameplay is.
The presentation of Operation Spy is much more high tech than previous EyeToy titles that were more cartoon-like. In fact, there are some allusions to Minority Report, particularly when you're manipulating the Cryptogon using your hands. Many of the menu screens and lines of pop up menus are clean and technical looking to try to get the player involved in the spy nature of the game, with the requisite sound effects to make it sound more futuristic and digitally enhanced. It's not a bad choice considering the tone of the game, although you will notice that it is somewhat hampered by the standard EyeToy visual issues. Depending on your available light source, the camera won't detect your face for the face recognition sequences or how you're trying to manipulate mini-game controls all that well, which is key for a controller-less title. You can also easily confuse the camera based on a slight angle, such as having hair in your face or repositioning the camera slightly from the first time you've played the game, and there are moments where your digital representation will totally chunk out into blocky pixels instead of a decent image.
While Operation Spy has moments of enjoyable gameplay, it's hampered significantly by repetitive game mechanics found in previous EyeToy titles and a lack of depth to the story premise. This game might appeal to little kids that are looking to keep their sibling out of their personal things or pranksters that like playing practical jokes on unsuspecting family members, but much of the mini-games and additional modes will soon grow old as well. You're probably better off looking at one of the other EyeToy games than this one.