EyeToy: Play

Play was the first EyeToy game to appear, and the template for many of the later games. It consists of 12 mini-games, with a variety of methods of gameplay designed to showcase the capabilities of the EyeToy.

In Play the player is the star, and there's a lot of emphasis on seeing yourself on screen. In addition to the games there's also a video recording feature. The ability to make movies of yourself is barely mentioned in the booklet, but it makes this game useful as well as just fun. Unfortunately the practicalities of sharing these messages limits their usefulness somewhat. You won't get many minutes of home-movie on a memory card, and the message is only accessible to other Play users. However, if you can record directly to video you should be able to overcome these problems, so the video messaging can be used as a sort of cheap camcorder.

Another feature is the playroom, which showcases a variety of effects that you can mess around with. There are bees, and creepy spiders that follow you around, as well as balloons to bounce and pop, falling leaves, and many more. These are not competitive games, just effects that make you go "Ooh!" and help you to get used to the way the camera works. Although there's not much incentive to go back and look at them after you've seen them all once, these effects are perfect for younger children who may have problems keeping up with the other games.

The minigames are loosely connected by the evil Wonton and his minions, so some of them share the same characters and all of them share the same cutesy graphical style. In Kung Foo you simply slap everything in sight until you reach the boss, who you also slap. Boxing Chump is similarly aggressive, but it allows players to dodge blows by moving offscreen. In Slap Stream you lose a life each time you hit the wrong person, so you have to be more alert and watch who you're hitting.

Beat Freak is quite similar to other dancing games for the dance mat, in that you need to move your arms in time rather than your feet, whereas in Boogie Down you have to remember a series of moves. Mirror Time is also a test of memory and reaction time which turns out to be quite challenging even though it's not as exhausting as most other games.

In the category of frankly barmy there's Wishi Washi and Plate Spinner, in which players ... wash windows and spin plates. Kudos to the creators for going where no other game makers thought to go before.

The games can be played at three difficulty levels that each present a progressive challenge that's been well thought out. Unfortunately there are no unlockable sections, apart from one or two games that have bosses on the more difficult levels. The theme of Wonton and his minions is the lightest of threads holding the game together rather than a real story, and this means that replay value is mostly from trying to beat your own and your friend's high scores.

In spite of this lack of unlockables, the minigames in Play are without doubt good games in themselves. It's one of the few titles that's as much fun to spectate as it is to play, and it appeals to everyone's sense of silliness with the enjoyment of monkeying around in front of a camera. If you'd rather be the star of your own show, or you don't have the patience for a game that makes you reach a certain level before you can progress, then Play might suit you.