An 'Eye' for the spotlight

Times Staff Writer

Baby, you're a star.

Well, at least you are when you play the ingenious "Eye Toy" out recently from PlayStation2.

The game comes with a little camera, about the size of a pack of playing cards, that you plug into the USB port on the PS2. A cute on-screen tutorial instructs you to set the camera on top of your TV and stand 5 to 7 feet back from the set. A blue outline is drawn on screen to position yourself in the center, then the arm waving begins.

To interact with the game, players wiggle their fingers in circles to select difficulty level, number of players and -- most importantly -- which of the 12 games you want to play.

A couple of problems here. First, you have to be well-lighted, with a drastic difference in contrast necessary to register your choices and moves. Most of my choices didn't work with our purple couch as a background until a lamp was repositioned to brightly illuminate the room. Guess that goes along with being a star, the bright lights and all. Second thing wrong, the majority of the games to play are duds. Granted, the four that are engaging are really enjoyable, but a 33% success rate won't get you re-elected.

The brightest of the bunch is "Kung Foo," which puts players in the middle of a fierce ninja battle. And, as the immortal '70s-era song said, "Everybody Wants 'Kung Foo' Fighting." Gamers wave their arms using karate chops to stop the pesky little ninjas from jumping on top of them. When the player is well lit, the hits register exactly where you make contact. Hit the evil Wonton and steal some of his magic, causing your arms to go all blurry and "Matrix"-like, with a furious barrage of fists and elbows. Then, every third wave of attacks lets you break boards just like Bruce Lee. Very addicting stuff here.

Another of the best games in the package is "Mirror Time," where your image is split, reversed and rotated, making it hard to guess which hand is aiming at which bomb. Touch the green, stay on screen. Hit the red, bye-bye, you're dead. Turns out this is much harder and more playable than it sounds.

Rounding out the best are "Rocket Rumble" and "Wishi Washi." In "Rumble," wave one hand over the fireworks launched into the night sky, the other over the detonator, to create a fireworks show that elicits "ooohs" and "aaahs" from the crowd and increases your score. This proves to be challenging and full of pretty explosions. Using your arms to wipe soapy water off the windows is the point of "Washi," one of the silliest but nonetheless most addicting of the tilts.

And an added bonus to playing "Eye Toy": Instead of sore hands from too much controllering, how about sore arms from waving at bombs, ninjas and the like? Nobody said being a TV star was easy.

A well-armed 'Ratchet'

It's a good thing "Ratchet & Clank Going Commando" is so fun to play. Otherwise, the developers might be accused of being a little too gun crazy.

In this sequel to last year's version, you play again as Ratchet, a strange yellow fox-like thing who gets hired by Mr. Abercrombie Fizzwidget to recover a stolen item of his. In his travels across the galaxy, Ratchet employs all kinds of different weapons, which, like chess pieces, all have different types of usefulness. Part of the fun of blowing things to Kingdom Come is deciding how to do it. Ratchet also collects shiny golden bolts, the game's currency, that he can use to buy newer, fancier weapons and ammo.

Controlling Ratchet is easy and intuitive, and choosing from your arsenal is a snap, once you get the hang of it. However, sometimes aligning the camera's view behind Ratchet can be difficult, causing a little frustration at times.

But the most impressive new aspect of the adventure is the circular worlds Ratchet travels to during the course of his adventure. The entire level is mapped out on a sphere, meaning Ratchet can literally run all around the world. The effect is both amazing and disorientating. Mini-games and space battles also help keep the game interesting.

In fact, this is the kind of game you'll continue to play, even when you know you have to be at work in a few hours.



"Eye Toy"

Good: Groundbreaking good time.

Bad: Only a few quality games on the initial offering.

Details: PlayStation2 platform; $49.99; rating: E (violence).

"Ratchet & Clank Going Commando"

Good: Amazing graphics, lots of things go boom.

Bad: Needs better camera control.

Details: PlayStation2; $39.99; rating: T (mild violence).

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