Thunderbolt logo

Eye Toy: Play

Now I was only born in 1985 but thanks to older mates with magazine collections and my own research into retro gaming I have a good idea what went on before I entered this world. Flicking through the hit magazine 2000 AD shows people in silver suits, flying cars, inter-galactic wars and day trips to mars and the moon. We are now in 2003 and have Internet fridges. Something tells me we’ve been conned. There are signs though that elements of technology have been sneaking towards millenium-esqe approval. Remember in Minority Report where Tom Cruise looks through data on a screen using a special glove? Coupled with swooshy sounds and blue light effects it looked all futuristic and unbelievable. Well open your eyes- Sony has developed the EyeToy and no, we don’t need a fancy glove to operate it!

If you’d been listening in history class then you’d remember that the Romans defied anyone who disagreed with their theory of the earth being flat. Analysts and songwriters alike brushed off Beatle Mania as a ‘fad’. House brick mobile phones came along and they said it’d never catch on. Well open your eyes because the earth is round, The Beatles are one of the best bands ever, mobile phones proving to be more popular than cars and digital cameras stamping their mark on the evolution of videogames. Who’d ever think a bloke would become a millionaire from making people look like twats? Pretend to dance on a dance mat, duck behind objects whilst virtual people shoot virtual bullets at you in Police 24/7 and now control a game using your body. Ridiculous.

Well it should be, only EyeToy is much more than a waving game. Actually the most amazing facts surrounding Sony’s EyeToy is it was made outside Japan and arrived in Europe first. What makes this so fun apart from the novelty of no controller is the humour. Sony have borrowed that wacky narrator from Banzai on Channel 4 and E4 and placed him in a zany world of his own. “You can cheat by moving closer to the screen, but where’s the fun in that?” he booms out. “Get ready” in that slow, deep voice. Fantastic.

The obsession with grannies is so European too as the tutorial you follow when first booting up involves that OAP everyone wants for a Nan boogying around on Beat Freak. You know that comedy duo Men in Coats? Along that line of comedy but with one person.

Anyways, like I said earlier you navigate the menus and play games using your body. Waving at the continue icon creates a clock type animation. Keep waving till it’s full (about two seconds’ worth of movement) and you’ll go to the next screen. Making a sharp stabbing movement towards arrows moves the selections along so you can choose which games to play. All along you see your ugly mug shining in the background, and possibly people peeping through the window behind you wondering what you’re doing. This is the wally-van (or mental hospital-your choice) attractor, as you stand in the middle of the room making Kung-Foo moves and washing windows. Strange.

Graphics are somewhat influenced by the amount of light in the room. Lack of light will cause bluelines to come onto the screen and you’ll become much more blurry and hard to see. The basic premise consists of your ugly mug and barrel chest on screen with fancy graphics laid over the top. It’s easy to do as well, just watch Art Attack.

The camera itself sits on top of the TV and can swivel left and right and up and down to fit the top half of your weedy body onto the screen. Each game may require you to be in different positions so you can move the camera to suffice the needs, thankfully an outline of the position needed is highlighted on-screen to help you out. Great if you’ve had a few and brought the lads back from the pub. Then we can get down to actually playing the games!

First port of call is Kung Foo. Finally those childhood dreams of re-enacting the fight scenes in a programme of the same name on Sky One can be fulfilled. Just like David “grasshopper; take the pebble from my hand” Caradeen you prance about in pyjamas hitting ninjas. But these guys pack a punch or two. Running on-screen from platforms they jump into flying kick positions and fire punches, leaving you whacking them Bruce Lee style. As you make contact with the cartoon ninjas they are dispatched through the air (and even into the screen!) with a satisfying ‘thwack’. After every two rounds you break boards on either side of the screen giving you ample opportunity to test out those high sidekicks. Words cannot describe how great the feeling of whacking ninjas is; it’s just so addictive and fun to play!

Now in a move that could, just could remove the need of dance mats we get Beat Freak. Using your hands instead of feet leaves us wiggling around touching speakers in no sort of rhythm. The perfect game to watch girls wiggle in the way only girls can.

Simon Says is one of those games you only see posh kids playing whilst trying to fit in with ‘commoners’ on camping trips. Here we get taught to dance. Watch the cool lil’ figure strut her stuff then copy to the beat. A great memory test and another game to get them girls wiggling.

The other night when I finished work I went out with a few mates and lady friends to the pub. Getting completely drunk we dropped the girls off at their houses and went back to mine. Now you know that thing that dads do right? Offer you a fry up to get your stomach churning. Well turn on the EyeToy and play Mirror Time to get the same effect. Your image is split in two, spun around, upside down etc and you have to move to get the icons. We managed 3 minutes before stumbling to the loo complaining of the room spinning. Marvellous.

As we all know exercise is forgotten about when we are playing a gripping game. Occasional trips to the loo are all we need to stop deep vain thrombosis. But football games seem to inspire us into running to the park to have a kick around. It’s when you get there when you realise you have to move to play it. Add to that various minefields of dog turds and the unreliable English weather and it’s a cocktail of nightmares. Thank god then that Keep Ups allows us to look like football legends within the confines of our flat or bedroom. Cheers and chants from a crowd encourage you to act with a bit more flair, and that’s where you discover the catch. Monkeys appear from windows at the side of the screen and try to pop the ball. So what you have to do is head the ball at them to send them off to monkey heaven. Hitting several in succession provides a second ball, making the task of monkey killing easier but increasing the skill level. Thankfully our size 5 match ball is quite floaty (like those ones you buy at beaches) giving us time to down a few pints and score with Miss World in between flicks, George Best style. Don’t drink too much though or you could find yourself shelling out £54,000 on a new car for the misses.

The technical ability of the EyeToy is shown fully in Ghost Catcher as fantastic lighting effects hide floating ghosts from your deadly hands. The aim of the game is to squish them until they pop, but this is far easier said than done. Nearly transparent the ghosts are hard to see and squirm away from your clutches remarkably well. The distraction of bats that have to be swiped away is brilliant and is overall a great experience.

Rocket Rumble is a better version of Fantavision (the crazy firework game that launched with the PS2) in the way you select types of ‘works with your hand and slam down on the detonator. Not the best mulitplayer game but produces some spectacular lighting effects.

Boxing Chump is probably my favourite game. Facing side on to the screen you have three rounds against a robot. Duck, swerve and jump (!?) to avoid swings from the robotic Mike Tyson and then let rip with a flurry of punches Rocky style. By far the best way to play is to set the camera up at 45 degrees to the left on the TV. This way you can face the robot in real time whilst looking the part on screen. In between rounds you get tips from a tough talking coach and then wait for the bell before swinging violently. Your mates are watching and you’re getting beaten by a pussy robot. ‘ave it!

A favourite pastime in the arcades is the gofer bash where you hit the gofers with a big assed mallet. Here in Slap Streamyou hit annoying rats in the mush as they pop up on screen. Be careful not to hit the curvy bunny girls though, hitting three and they won’t want to play anymore. A simple concept but great for the kiddies at parties.

Possibly the worst game available (but by no means not fun) is UFO Juggler. Take UFO’s from the launch pads and into the air at just the right speed to avoid an explosion. Not really accessible and lacks the immediacy of the other titles.

The instant hit of the whole disk has to be Wishi Washi, a simple concept in which you clean dirt and birdy poo off the screen. The fun comes in the many techniques people will use to clean a window, ranging from star jumps to dirty moves. Watch out for the guy who cheats by walking past the camera at close range. That’s just not good. Rather sad really.

And last but by no means least is the Royal Variety Performance and Generation Show favourite. Plate Spinner will have you prancing around like Manwell from Fawlty Towers, keeping plates going on sticks to stop them from smashing. Monkeys jump out and try to make them fall but one swipe clears them off. Smashing fun. He he.

And if that wasn’t enough for you then check out the Playroom. Filled with early demo’s Sony used at various Games Shows are here. Mirror type effects from the fair ground, hands fizzing away and heat sensors are all here and make the whole experience much more enjoyable.

Of course, if you read Nuts and Bolts V11 then you’ll realise how cool the Video Messaging is. Recording hot steamy love scenes with your best mate’s sister, spying on horny couples and confessing your undying love for everything that walks after a night at the pub are the order of the day. Just make sure you have the space on your memory card first though. Speaking of pictures, when you create a profile to record your high scores onto you have to pose for three photos. Making the ‘happy’ pose incredibly over the top, looking distraught in a ‘sad’ one and pulling a moony for the ‘silly’ photo is just plain funny and you see all three being played when selecting your profile.

The Sony EyeToy has all the makings of a classic, it simply cannot fail. A great sense of humour has been put in as well as a lot of work making each game fun and accessible. For the lone player there is plenty of fun to be had, but pull this one out at the party and the night will be full of stomach-bending laughs and arguments of ‘are you eyeing up my bird?’ as girls boogy down to Beat Freak.

There really aren’t any downfalls, only the ease of cheating (but what’s the point?) and unable to play in bad light, the solution to the latter being turning the light on.

Don’t be scared by the fact its another game powered by a unique peripheral, go out and buy it. Plenty of fun for the family and drunks alike, this is a defining point in videogame history. And with the support of Sony, EA, Square and Namco there promises to be far more games (perhaps a second Kung Foo?) and ports (Knockout Kings, Time Crisis etc) released soon. The video messaging is worth its weight in gold alone…

9 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in June 2002.

Gentle persuasion

You should check out our podcast.