J. Michael Neal
|# Of Players:
||Party Game / Peripheral
||Memory Card, EyeToy (required)
One thing you can’t say of Sony is that they’ve let their PS2’s
USB ports and Expansion Slot go to waste. Hard drives,
keyboards, keyboard-control combos, optical mice, headsets,
microphones, networks adaptors – and that’s on top of the myriad
of peripherals that accompany any of today’s consoles; light
guns, dance pads, arcade sticks, steering wheels, remote
controls, wireless controllers, portable LCD screens, etc, etc.
I don’t think any console in history has had more add-ons than
Well, you can now add “web cam” to the mix as Sony seeks to, once
again, disprove the criticism that console add-ons are doomed to
failure with the release of their “EyeToy”. This little baby
plugs directly into a free USB port (if you have one – here’s an
idea for the next peripheral, the official PlayStation 2 USB hub)
and instantly works with any compatible game. No installation, no
instructions, nothing to save on a memory card – literally
plug-n-play. Too bad the only use you’ll get out of it for the time
being is the Play disc that comes with the hardware. That’s
likely to change real soon, however, in the face of the peripheral’s
runaway success – a sequel to Play is already confirmed, as
well as a Groove disc that plans to capitalize on the DDR
craze by offering the next step in digital booty-shaking, and a
number of SCEE games are confirmed to support Digimask technology,
which will allow EyeToy owners to place their faces within
games. It’s only a matter of time before the devices catches on
among developers, particularly if the PS3 ships with USB support.
For now, however, the Play disc isn’t a half-bad introduction
to the EyeToy/placeholder until something… meatier comes out.
It functions primarily as a collection of single and multiplayer
mini-games, and although some are not as strong as others, the ones
that score provide enough hours of hysteria-inducing,
calorie-burning fun to not only warrant a serious recommendation,
but to give hope to a bright future for the little gadget that makes
The immediately striking thing about Play is that it doesn’t
require a game pad at all. You don’t even need one plugged in.
Everything is interacted with through onscreen indicators that must
be activated by waving an object over it for a few seconds. It takes
a few minutes to get use to, but once you get a rhyme for the
sensitivity of the motion detection you’ll be flipping through menus
in no time.
After your hand-eye coordination is up to speed, it’s time to
calibrate the camera. This is easily the most important part of the
whole setup. You have to be wise about where the EyeToy is -
how it’s positioned, what it’s facing, and how much light is in the
room. If your subject’s situated in front of reflective material or
an overly “busy” background, it’s bound to interfere with the game.
A blank wall is probably your best bet. If you can’t afford that,
might I suggest creating a backdrop out of a sheet whenever you want
to get your EyeToy on?
You might also want to take your player’s heights into
consideration. There is an onscreen outline of where your body
should be positioned before starting the game, so try and angle the
camera so it’ll fit the most people within the target spot. Of
course, if Yao Ming and Gary Coleman drop by to play, prepare to
readjust the angle of the camera after every game.
You’ll no doubt have to relight whatever room you’re in as well. The
EyeToy is incredibly accurate, but without the right amount
of light you’ll never know that. You can increase the light
sensitivity of the camera through the main menu, but you’ll get more
out of just repositioning some lamps. Again, if you want my advice,
try a nice backlight and some sort of spotlight from the front –
flexible desk lamps work best. If you can’t manage that, a simple
lamp between you and the EyeToy should be sufficient.
Once this is all set, it’s time to dive right in: make picture
profiles for all your friends, consisting of a happy face, a sad
face, and a “silly” face (probably the coolest part of the whole
game), and pick a challenge. No need to thumb through a manual –
every mini-game has an interactive tutorial for orientation, but
most are pretty self-explanatory. You will need to get in shape,
however, as few games depend such physicality as Play. You
could get away with just stomping on games like DDR, but with
Play, you’ll be required to flail every limb the good Lord
gave yah. As you can imagine, this can be exhausting, particularly
when you are hysterical from laughter.
And you will be hysterical from laughter. This game is made for
parties, and in all my years I haven’t seen one that was a better
fit. It’s a game anyone can play - young, old, male, female, gamer,
and non-gamer alike – no rhythm required. It’s universal. There’s no
one who won’t find this game appealing, if only as a spectator
sport. Just sitting back and sharing a laugh as someone you know
makes a complete idiot of themselves on TV is just as rewarding as
being that idiot, or actually worrying about scores and who’s
beating who for that matter.
Scores do factor into a lot of the appeal of this game, however, as
head-to-head and team-based competition this physical has rarely
been seen in a game. The thrill of defeating an opponent based on
physical merit is intoxicating, especially for the typical sedentary
gamer, and obtaining a high score is particularly rewarding when you
get to have a snapshot taken to adorn the scoreboard.
If you’re a solo only kind of gamer, you probably won’t find enough
here to warrant a purchase based on Play alone. Sure, you can
have quite a bit of fun alone with this game, not to mention build a
workout regime around it, but without someone to share it with
you’ll find the appeal limited. Throw in brothers, sisters,
husbands, wives, children, neighbors, parents, grandparents,
co-workers, friends, and you have a whole new beast. I’d go so far
as to say you couldn’t afford to miss this one if you entertain
guests on a semi-regular basis. There’s a reason this has been
selling like hot cakes – it’s the Twister of the 21st
Century. You’ll want to pull it out at a party or lug it to a family
event, you’ll want to stick the kids in front of it or show it to
the Mrs. You’ll want to present it to total non-gamers to see their
reaction, show mom or dad. Play begs to be shared with others
and promises to be a hit with every crowd. Not even DDR or
Karaoke Revolution can boast that. It’s a party game you can
enjoy with your hardcore gaming buddy just as easily as you can
share it with your girlfriend just as easily as you can share it
with your dad just as easily as you can share it with your little
cousin just as easily as you can share with grandma – how many
titles can you say that about? So basically, unless you are the only
inhabitant of a desert isle, you will put Play to good use.
There is room for improvement, however. Although a nice idea, the
included video messaging feature seems incomplete. Sure, you’ll get
a couple of laughs out of it, but in the future, recording higher
quality audio and video to the HDD and sending the message to
another PS2 owner’s console over the Network Adaptor, with
the option for live video chat, would be ideal. Also, there are only
a few of the 12 mini-games worth playing over and over. Of course
those games are such a blast they’ll hold you for months, but it
would be nice to see a wider selection of top-notch mini-games in
subsequent installments. With Groove right around the corner,
Play 2 confirmed, and a few extra months of experimenting
under their belts however, I’m sure London Studios will have plenty
of cool new ideas to keep gamers busy.
As it stands, the EyeToy: Play bundle is worth the price of
admission. Even if no one except London Studios puts this cheeky
little doodad to use, it would still be worth it for the endless
hours of multiplayer fun it provides - wacky, senseless, breathless,
exhausting fun that anyone can enjoy. Any other use a third party
developer might have for it would just be icing on the cake.
Unique and original.
Universal appeal – everyone can have a good time.
High score snapshots and picture profiles rule!
Infinite replay value.
Best party game you will ever find.
Video messaging feels tacked on and is of poor quality.
Some games are not as strong as others.
There are few people who couldn’t benefit from EyeToy: Play
- shallow, silly, shameless, but fun as all hell, easily the
best party/multiplayer game experience on the planet. Discount
priced expansions and third-party support for the hardware will
ensure you get your money’s, and inevitable backwards
compatibility with the PS3 make this a pretty safe purchase as
add-ons go. I couldn’t recommend it higher.