In most situations, jumping up and down while waving your arms frantically might make observers question your sanity (or at least stare at you quizzically). However, if you happen to be playing one of the games in Sony’s EyeToy franchise, you may just find these onlookers joining you. Built on the premise of placing the player literally into the game as a character, and supporting this with a number of diversionary mini-games, the USB camera is one of the peripherals that have redefined the concept of interactivity. The latest entry in the series, EyeToy: Play 2, seeks to push this boundary even further, adding a number of new games, multiplayer modes and features in the process.
The EyeToy itself is a relatively straightforward device: by plugging it into one of the USB ports on the PS2, you can capture an image of yourself and display it on the screen. However, you can’t simply plug in the camera and get a decent picture without first establishing some settings primarily in your gaming environment. The EyeToy performs best within a well lit environment, and displays a red light if it cannot receive enough ambient light to track your movements. This actually is crucial to successfully playing certain games, as the camera will have different levels of responsiveness depending on how well it can “see” you. Apart from this, the camera has easily adjustable focus settings to get a relatively sharp picture, which is very helpful when it comes to playing the included games or using the extended features.
Play 2 has a number of creative uses for the camera. You can record a length of video and play it back with the video messaging feature. By using the Cameo mask feature, you can capture a 3D model of your head which can be used in a number of create a player modes in various games. The new inclusion for this game is the SpyToy mode, which allows someone to set the game up to be a virtual security camera, taking pictures every couple of seconds when it detects motion or hears a sound in the room. It can also set off an alarm if it detects activity directly in front of the camera, and all of the images taken can be accessed at a later time to check on your “security”. Definitely useful for older kids looking to keep their younger siblings out of their stuff, or college kids that don’t trust their roommates, but otherwise, most gamers probably won’t mess around with it too much.
Apart from this, there are a number of visual sandbox diversions in the playroom, such as creating color by moving your arms, playing pool on a table and creating other graphical effects. However, the primary thrust of Play 2 lies in the twelve new games, each of which have multiple stages. Unlike the previous Play title where you could stand still and simply move your arms, Play 2 engages much more of your entire body to play the games this time, forcing a larger physical commitment from the player. For instance, Homerun requires a player to swing at a ball pitched at them, and then actually pump their arms and legs to run the base paths. Similarly, mini-stages in Goal Attack and in the Multiplayer “Runnin'” game require the same physical investment. It’s actually possible to find yourself getting tired as you jump and run through each stage, which is potentially an indicator of the progression of the EyeToy franchise (especially with the exercise fueled Kinetic on the horizonů)
The inclusion of the various stages and bonus rounds gives each game a larger sense of being fleshed out. For instance, the DIY game has you performing a number of household tasks, such as hammering nails in straight, knocking branches into wood chippers and cutting patterns into wood. The fact that you’ll be able to access virtually any stage from the twelve games in multiplayer mode provides some longevity to the title, and there’s something to be said about having to come up with different things to do in each game.
However, players will notice that there is a large amount of repetition that does wind up setting in, which can sap the fun out of Play 2. For instance, there’s only so many times that you can grab objects and avoid spotlights in Secret Agent or pop bubbles in Bubblepop before you start looking for some other form of entertainment. This is also compounded by some of the tweaks performed to make Play 2 more interactive. The frame that is established for players to work in will often shift onscreen from stage to stage, and if you’re off somewhat, it can throw off your performance significantly on that level. This is especially true on games like Mr. Chef, which looks for a new place for the player on every single mission. This can be extremely infuriating, and might make some gamers hate certain stages of Play 2.
Play 2 has a cartoon influenced style with its supporting graphics, which are primarily used to support the main star of the game, which is the player. Engaging without being overly cutesy, the animation is quite smooth. In fact, the only hiccup that you might find will come from frames that drop out if your camera doesn’t have enough light to accurately capture your movements. Accessing menu options is a lot smoother and easier, although load times between mini-games could be much better. Music and sound effects are decent, although you’ll notice that these effects in games like Drummin’ and Air Guitar are enhanced based on your timing with the virtual instruments.
Overall, Play 2 is a vast improvement on the EyeToy formula, and an engaging diversion for a short while. A strong experience for multiple players, this would be a perfect title for families or parties, although you might find yourself bored with the repetition and frustrated with some of the technical issues you’ll inevitably run into. However, if you’ve been looking at picking up an EyeToy or been interested in another title that uses your camera, this isn’t a bad way to go.