On my video game shelf is PSP’s EyePet, right in between CoD: Black Ops and Medal of Honor. Admittedly, such a quaint game does not belong in the collection of violent things. You will think so too, once you see a cuddly, furry pet running around on your floor, kitchen counter, or keyboard. That’s right, thanks to the PSP camera, you can (virtually) imagine having a pet in your own home.
[image1]Once you lay the included Magic Card (no "Gathering" here…) down anywhere you want, your pet pops up on the card, but without it, your pet is suspended in a bubble indefinitely until you put the card down, so don’t lose it. You also need a well-lit area to play in; otherwise, the PSP camera won’t recognize the Magic Card. Don’t expect to play this game on the road during a night trip.
Interacting with the pet is limited. You place an object or your finger on either side of the screen and your pet recognizes it by making noises and looking in that direction. Sadly, that is all there is to it. It’s a nice touch to make the pet responsive as if it was real, but the reaction is repetitive and that’s as far as it goes.
While the pet is cute and cuddly, and all things quaint and loveable, you’re stuck with it. There isn’t a choice to pick between a dog, a cat, a horse, or a dragon. It more or less resembles a monkey, even though it hatches from an egg like a bird. It does, however, sit like dog, paw at you like a cat, and makes squeaky noises like a mouse. Forgive me if I sound too cutesy, but the damned thing is also fluffy: its hair sways back and forth as it scurries around, making you wish you can pet it. There are many different facial expressions too, and with its big bubble eyes, how can anyone reject such an adorable thing? I named mine Cujo.
Considering it is such a unique breed, you might think a lot of maintenance is required, but not so much. There are four things to be concerned about: hunger, stamina, creativity, and health. Make sure to keep it clean by giving it baths, feeding it before it starves, and playing games to make it both mentally and physically happy, which is the main thing you do throughout the game. However, if it isn’t happy, it runs away, so pay attention.
[image2]There are three levels to each of the mini-games. When you beat the first one and rack up enough points, you unlock the second level and so on. Each level has slightly altered gameplay, making it a bit more challenging than the last. One of the more innovative games involves drawing pictures with your pet. You draw a given picture from the game onto a paper, capture it through the PSP’s camera, and watch your pet draw it too. This allows more personal interaction, but again, like the majority of the game’s features, it’s limited to only the selected pictures. The overall difficulty of these mini-games is very easy, enough for kids to enjoy and to easily understand, but too simple that adults will find them lackluster.
If you earn a certain amount of points, you are awarded with gifts, such as clothing like hats, dresses, and jackets for your virtual pet. It isn’t much of a reward to unlock, but still, it allows you to personalize your pet when you return to the Home menu. In this menu, there are more customization options, such as changing its hair color, making its length short or long, or even give it a more radical look by selecting different types of preset haircuts, like a poodle's or a lion's.
It’s always nice to personalize anything, but if you have to wait through a lengthy loading time, then the fun quickly becomes tedious. This is instantly noticeable as there is a loading time for everything. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was short, but it takes a while to load the pet onto the screen, including if you want to dress it, feed it, or play games with it.
EyePet seems more like a start to something great than a finished product as there are limitations to what you can do in the game. Don’t get me wrong; there is quite a lot to do in between keeping your pet happy and healthy, and personalizing it with a variety of clothing, but it only lasts so long. The main goal here seems to be to unlock clothing, instead of something to help your pet grow or progress. There is also interaction, but little in comparison to what could be possible. Even though the EyePet offers a lovable virtual pet, it just doesn’t cut it in the real world.