It is rare indeed that a peripheral manages to stand out as a truly innovative accessory that enhances the experience of playing games. The exceptions include, but are not limited to the NES Light Gun, Galoob’s Game Genie, Konami’s DDR Dance Pad, and Nintendo’s Wavebird, not to mention a host of creative creations from the risk takers at Sega such as the Samba De Amigo maracas, the Seaman microphone, and the Dreamcast network adapters. Ok, so maybe there has been more than a few innovative videogame accessories over the years. But none of the aforementioned peripherals comes close to the sheer inventiveness of Sony’s newest PS2 play thing. The EyeToy: Play manages to completely reinvent the traditional landscape of game playing by cutting out the need for a controller completely and requiring only physical movements on your part to play.
What you get with the EyeToy: Play is a USB camera that plugs into your PS2 and a collection of simplistic yet undeniably entertaining minigames on a separate DVD disc. This whole package will set you back a mere $39.99 USD, which is quite surprising considering everything you get.
Basically, the way EyeToy works is you stand in front of the TV mounted camera, which captures your image and transfers it onto the screen in real-time. You play the minigames by waving your arms or body around. The on-screen action interacts with your movements, literally putting you into the game. Admittedly, the included games on the EyeToy: Play disc are very simplistic, but they vary greatly in terms of style. Genres include everything from rhythm, fighting, sports, novelty, and some that aren’t so easily categorized. Wishi Washi, for example, challenges you to wave your arms about in an attempt to wash as many windows as possible in the allotted time. Soccer Craze is about keeping the soccer ball from hitting the ground by using your head to continuously bounce the underside of the ball. Kung Foo is my personal favorite and in this minigame, you’ll need to smack, chop, swat, punch, or even kick a slew of ninjas that constantly attempt to attack you from all directions. In all, there are 12 games included on the disc.
The USB camera and minigames alone are more than worth the price of the unit, but Sony went to the extra effort of including two additional modes as well: video messaging and playroom. The playroom is an excellent addition to any party as it simply transfers the captured video on the screen and filters it through a variety of different effects like fish tank, mosaic, motion blur, and delay. There are also unique sounds emitted in accordance with the on-screen movement. The video messaging feature is precisely what it sounds like. It allows you to capture short video clips complete with audio and store them on your memory card. Now, before you go thinking naughty thoughts about how you could use this feature to capture questionable material, keep in mind that an empty 8 MB memory card will only hold 60 seconds of video and sound. We didn’t have any increased capacity third-party mem cards sitting around to test the video messaging feature out with, but it should be safe to assume that more space equates to longer clips.
The EyeToy will certainly appeal to gamers of all types thanks to its sheer ingenuity and inherent entertainment value, but it’s the non-gamers who Sony seems to be targeting with the peripheral. The fact that you don’t even have to pick up a controller to play instantly removes any qualms one may have about not being familiar with a Dual Shock. Even the in-game interface and menus are controlled solely by moving your hands over the on-screen buttons.
There are a few things to make sure of in order to properly play with the device, however. For instance, you need a nice chunk of free space in your living room or wherever you’re playing, otherwise your rampant flailing and swinging may cause unwanted damage to your surroundings. Also, it is important that you stand the appropriate distance from the camera and accurately frame yourself in the picture. Sure you can cheat, as the tutorial openly admits, by moving closer to the camera, but what’s the fun in that? It should also be mentioned that you’ll need quite a lot of light in the room, otherwise the EyeToy will be less effective at detecting your movements. A small LED on the camera lights up if the image that it is receiving is too dark.
All in all, Sony’s EyeToy peripheral is, in our humble opinion, the most innovative and original add-on device that has hit home consoles in years. The technology implemented to capture your image and detect motion is surprisingly refined considering this is the first version of the unit. If you’re tired of party games that star fat plumbers or require you to dance in rhythm then the EyeToy may be what you’re looking for.