I’m a huge supporter of Sony’s Eye Toy
. While everyone at Gamers Day 2003 was anxious to get their hands on Gran Turismo 4
, I was stoked to get some quality time with the camera peripheral. I mean, I love racing games and all but there’s so much promise with the Eye Toy. Many people believe that it’s just a gimmicky camera that’s capable of taking photographs, but the device is so much more. Its motion sensing technology can lead to some pretty impressive results, and Antigrav is just the beginning of what could be the next step in video gaming.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the device, the Eye Toy is a motion-sensing camera that allows players to use their bodies to manipulate the action. When the player makes a move, it registers with a sensor on the camera which then reflects the action back onto the screen. The device has an unlimited amount of potential and while some developers are starting to incorporate the device into their games, they’re basically only using it for its picture taking abilities. It’s more though, the motion sensor has the ability to track the player and use them as a controller. That’s exactly what Antigrav is all about. It’s a futuristic hover board racing game but there’s a huge twist. Instead of controlling the game with a controller, players utilize their head and their arms to manipulate the action. Antigrav is also the first Eye Toy game really aimed at the mainstream audience. After the initial calibration sequence the game does away with the video and maps all your actions onto their on-screen personas.
Before each race the camera calibrates itself by locking onto your face. This is pivotal because the position of your face in relation to the original position determines how your character reacts. Move a little to the left and your character sways gently in that direction, lean all the way and your character makes a hard turn. Additionally, the head is used to control the vertical orientation of the character as well. In order to jump players will need to physically jump while players can duck by (duh) ducking. Furthermore players can utilize a speed boost by getting into a crouch and perform tricks by moving their arms. It really is amazing to perform the action with your body and watching it happen on the screen. When you move your arms your character moves his arms too; I got a real kick out of this as I spent a good five minutes flailing my arms and watching my character mimic my actions.
There are two different ways to play through each of the game’s five different courses. Race mode is a straight-forward race through the course against three other competitors. To advance in the Race mode you will need to place first in three separate heats of increasing difficulty. Winning all three heats will unlock the next course in the game and some new upgrades for your rider. Although there are only five different courses, each feature enough paths and shortcuts to make them consistently interesting. On average, each race lasts about 5 minutes as you travel from the start to the finish. There’s some good variety in the locales as well as you’ll race around lakes, through busy cities and across snow-capped peaks.
Your other option is to participate in the stunt mode which requires you to earn a certain amount of points in order to move on. Points are earned by performing wild and insane stunts off one the game’s numerous ramps and launch points. Tricks are performed by waving the arms in different motions; there are a lot of tricks available and some special combos as well. Also, performing stunts also has that added bonus of filling up a boost meter that can be used to propel the racer ahead of the competition.
Rails play a pivotal role in the game as they provide players with shortcuts and a decided advantage in the speed department. As you travel along rails you’ll notice some floating icons; hitting the icons with your hands will give you a speed boost that is crucial to success in the game. Hitting the icons is part of the fun as you’ll need to physically raise your hands up and down in order to hit the icons as they pass by. It’s a hell of a lot of fun when the game is functioning properly. I say properly because there’s a high likelihood that you won’t have access to the optimal playing conditions.Ideally you’ll want to play against a completely white backdrop with ample lighting while wearing dark colored clothing. The problem here is that very few people have such a setup in their living rooms. My living room is bright but the lamps aren’t perfectly centered with the Eye Toy, causing uneven lighting. This causes a lot of problems as the game often has a problem detecting my movements, especially when I’m moving my arms around. It was so problematic that the only time I could really play the game was during the daytime when I had all the windows open. Perhaps Sony and Harmonix knew about this beforehand as they demonstrated the game with brightly colored gloves at E3. If you’re planning on playing the game you should make sure that you have the optimal setup as to alleviate any unnecessary problems.
Antigrav takes place in a futuristic setting and the look of the game really fits the bill. Everything has this really jazzed-up 30th century feel to it and the landscapes look ultra modern. There are plenty of little details around and the overall visual package is a pleasing one. Characters look great and are appropriately over-the-top and wacky. There aren’t many special effects but the little particle and lighting effects look great.
The audio is a letdown due largely to the fact that the game lacks any kind of licensed music. This is a huge surprise considering that SCEA and Harmonix have worked with so many recording artists in the past. One would have to think that a few of the artists would be willing to contribute a few tracks to the cause in order to boost the overall quality of the game. Instead, we have a drum’n’bass style soundtrack from a relatively unknown group called Apollo 440. They try very hard to provide a unique and varied soundtrack but in the end, it really sounds like there’s only one audio track in the whole entire game. If you’ve played an “Xtreme” style game you also know what to expect during the races. This includes the traditional “witty” comments that the characters spout off as they rattle off big tricks or perform well in the races.
After spending some quality time with the game, it’s apparent that there’s plenty of room for improvement. The Eye Toy was designed as a party toy that is supposed to cater to multiple people, yet the only multiplayer aspect of Antigrav is a time trial mode. At the very least, it seems like the game could have featured some sort of online play or even support for multiple Eye Toys. By plugging in two Eye Toys, two players can race together on the same screen via split screen. There are some problems with the game’s length as well. Although the game appears to be geared towards the mainstream, it’s still designed with the niche crowd in mind. It’s kind of like an extended mini-game where the enjoyment is supposed to come from the actual experience instead of variety. Next time around, the developers should take some time to add more to do in order to give the game some more mileage.
Those are a few things to improve upon if SCEA were to green light a sequel. As it stands, Antigrav is an amazing piece of technology that shows off what the Eye Toy is capable of. It’s the first Eye Toy specific game with mainstream appeal and one that is accessible to gamers of all types. If you own an Eye Toy, or know someone who does, you’ll want a copy of Antigrav
to go along with it.