The Eye Has It

Sony's tech demo turned full game offers an interesting use for the camera, but only hardcore CCG nuts need apply.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: November 4, 2007
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When it was first demonstrated at Sony's 2006 E3 press conference, the PlayStation Eye and it ability to help users interact with a digital creature seemed like a nice little precursor of things to come. As a glorified tech demo, The Eye of Judgment does exactly what it should: it sells people on using the PlayStation Eye in ways never seen before. In essence, it's used to "look" at cards placed on a map and update the game accordingly. Sure, EoJ could probably be played entirely offline with the same basic experience staying intact, but having little virtual monsters duke it out does add a nice little cool factor to things.

That, and it's a lot more fun to play online than it is off.

Most of that stems from the fact that the game's artificial intelligence can be absolutely brutal; I lost a good 10 games in a row before I finally started just chasing after getting five of the nine squares on the "board" (it's actually just a simple cloth mat) instead of trying to kill off the other cards. The change in strategy was the key, as the battles just happen naturally anyway, but since the only two ways to win are to claim five squares or play until the other guy has burned through his entire deck, it's funny that it took me as long as it did for it all to "click."

It probably doesn't help that Eye of Judgment lacks any real single-player aspect. Yes, you can play against the AI, and doing so (and winning, of course) will unlock some of the pre-set decks that are out there that revolve around the game's specific elements: Fire, Water, Earth, Forest and the neutral Biolith. These unlocked pre-set decks can be purchased at retail, but like all decks -- even the ones you make yourself -- the cars must be scanned in first prior to playing online.

It's a measure that helps dissuade cheating, I'm sure, and since you basically have to have all your cards spread out to pick from to create your hand, you're going to know your entire deck anyway, but it also helps illustrate the simple rules that Sony and Wizards of the Coast built into deck building. There are caps to the number of cards that you can have of a specific type, handy because it's possible to print out your own cards and use those -- even online. By keeping the decks more or less even despite monstrously powered cards, it keep the game fun, and online, though slightly clunky and time-consuming, the games really can be a lot of fun, just like any collectable card game.

Even if you do have a deck of ultra-powerful cards, you still have to build up the mana necessary to summon them, and the real heavy hitters can't be brought out until the summon lock is broken by having four occupied squares. Again, this is to keep players from completely steamrolling newcomers, and it does tend to slow things down a little, allowing for some breathing room. Coupled with the fact that each player only gets two mana points per turn unless they sacrifice or use special cards, and the slow ramp-up to releasing powerful monsters becomes in and of itself a strategic move.

And there is a ton of strategy in The Eye of Judgment, not just in constructing a proper deck (which, it should be noted, will almost certainly cost you a pretty penny; booster packs are only four bucks, but you only get eight cards, and they're randomly chosen, so just like any other CCG, you're going to end up with a lot of duplicates. Still, there is a particular kind of rush that comes from building the perfect deck through trial and error, and EoJ nails that feeling completely.
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