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Eye of Judgement with Camera

The eye is watching you
The trading card game business is one that always seems to be working, be it Yu-gi-oh or the very well known Magic: The Gathering, this genre in its truest form has never made a good crossover to the videogaming world due to the obvious limitations. Sony combined with Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro have teamed up to bring a new type of trading card game to the masses, thanks to the technology of the PlayStation Eye a new type of energy has been injected into the genre.

Trading card games are a tricky thing to explain to non-gamers, and even non-card based players will question exactly whatís going on. Even for myself, learning to properly play the game took some time and a lot of losses to the computer before I figured out a strategy that would actually work. The Eye of Judgment pack consists of all the item you need to start playing the game; the new PlayStation Eye and stand(see end of review for camera specific feedback), a thirty card starter deck, an eight card booster deck, and a mat which is used as your playing field.

The mat is divided into nine squares, and when you start a game each square takes on a different element contained within the game, and you are either rewarded or penalized for placing a card of a similar or opposing element during gameplay. The goal of the game is to be the first player to have five cards on the board, which sound easy but within the confines of the game can be a little tricky.

Each player upon starting uses a deck of thirty cards, and if you alter the starter deck in any way you must register the deck with the game. Using the included camera you present each card to the eye, which then tracks the deck as you play and also acts as a measure to prevent reusing cards. From the deck of 30, the player initially draws five cards to make his or her starting hand, then proceeds to place cards on the mat providing they have adequate mana to summon the creature on the card. Mana is accrued with each passing turn, and as one can expect more powerful spells or creatures require more mana. Because the mat is a 3x3 grid, placement of your card is also of utmost importance. On each card is a diagram of the attack zones for each card as well as a defensive diagram which outlines zones that are considered blind spots, and zones which will result in a counter attack. Thatís the game in a nutshell, but the common thread through all games of this type is how you choose to create you deck, and play each match. Yes, of course additional booster decks and theme decks are out in the wild for you to pick up and supplement your deck with Ė and rest assured I likely will be picking some up when I can finally find some. This game is that entertaining once you get the hang of it.

So whatís the deal with the Eye and why the hell do you need it? When you place your card of choice on the game field, the camera recognized the card type and essentially brings it to life on the screen. So rather than simply looking at a real game board on your table, you are looking at it on your TV with the augmented reality of the monsters and spells being displayed onscreen. Seeing the cards come to life on the game board is a neat thing for the first little while you play, but the animations do get tiresome after a lot of gameplay. The graphical quality of the monsters and spells is fairly impressive considering the creatures generally stay within the confines of the card sized cell on the mat during normal gameplay. When an attack is taking place the game moves out to a battle field view and the attacking card gets to make their move, deducting HP from the opposing force; providing they are in a position which allows counter attacks, you may see a counter otherwise the game reverts back to the normal mode. While in placement mode, you have the option of summoning a new creature or causing on of your already placed cards to perform an action or rotate for a better attack angle, both of which also cost mana but less than a new summon would cost.

The music in the title is straight up hair metal from the late 1980s and after the first half dozen plays of the game I was quick to turn this down and use my own music; how this type of music still lives on over 20 years later is a puzzle to me and whoever approved it for use in the game should be forced to listen to it for 48 hours straight as punishment.

A couple of gameplay modes are included here with a fairly long and essential video of just how to play the game, which is a blessing because the instruction booklet for this game has to be the least useful instruction set I have ever set my eyes upon when it comes to explaining the game. Aside from the deck registration mode, a Judgement mode allows you to pit two cards against one another in a battle. While seemingly useless, itís a great way to see just exactly what type of card will fair best against another which can only aide in your strategy. The main mode of play is the Battle Mode Ė and it includes limited solo play options, two player mode and for those who are really bored an option to watch two CPU controlled players go head to head. Online is where this game shines when you can find a match and when you have a solid deck created to take against the collectors (and cheaters thanks to the ability to copy the cards and use them). The one tweak about online play is the CPU actually draws the card for you from your registered deck and you have to hunt through your deck to find the cards drawn. While this is slightly painful, it makes a lot of sense because it prevents you or your opponent from hunting through a deck to find a perfect card for each turn and helps somewhat level the playing field. The games have been fairly lag free but due to the nature of the game I wouldnít expect there to be much seeing as itís a small amount of data being transferred with each turn.

People who enjoy card based games and also are avid videogamers can rest easy because this is a very entertaining title once you construct your dream deck. Playing online may not have the same level of social interaction that traditional card games have, but really geeks like us arenít looking for a long lasting friendship when playing a game Ė weíre looking to win. The price point for the Eye Of Judgment kit is a very respectable one considering you get the latest version of the PSEye, and support for the camera is starting to makes its way onto the PS Store now. For people who know they like card games, this game is highly recommended; for those interested in trying it out Iíd say rent it but due to the nature of the cards and the requirement of the camera it could be a tricky thing to test this title out.

PS Eye

Having had a chance to check out a couple of the pieces of software on the PS Store the camera accessory to me still doesnít have much use outside of Eye of Judgment. While its specifications are decent with 60FPS while running 640x480, and both a wide angle and a tighter shot at its auto focusing disposal, the camera is a good chunk of hardware that hopefully can become more useful to gamers. Also included right on the camera itself is a microphone array which much to my pleasure, removes the necessity of a Bluetooth headset for voice communication when playing online. The fidelity of the microphone is actually pretty decent considering itís fully exposed to the room you are playing in, and not just directed at the sound source like a dedicated headset.

Eye Create

Eye Create is a tool which lets you capture both still frame shots as well as short full motion movies with the PS Eye, then seamlessly combine them, as well as sound captured from the built in microphone, into a movie which can be viewed later on on your PS3, or if you even have the slightest bit of technical savvy you can transfer the files to your computer and then upload them for the world to see on a popular site that is a procrastinatorís wet dream. A plethora of image manipulation is at your disposal, and those familiar with any type of image editor should know how each works. While not a super useful tool, Eye Create is free on the PS Store and for the highly creative type could open up a world of viewers to animation or short films that theyíd like to create.

Iíve also purchased Aquatopia, the salt water aquarium simulation that was recently featured for $1.99. I myself am a saltwater aquarist and did get a slight bit of enjoyment seeing some of the same fish I own rendered on the screen across the room. How does this work with the eye? Well, the fish recognize when something or someone walks though the field of view. Make quick movements and the will scatter, and catch their attention and youíre likely to come face to face with a long nose butterfly fish. Also, when you wiggle your hand at the top of the aquarium ripples are created and some particular movements cause virtual food to be sprinkled in the tank. Itís a neat little distraction and cool as a screensaver or distraction for those awkward dinner parties, but when compared to the real thing itís boring, dull and the limited number of fish available make the cost far outweigh the benefits.