The Playroom and PlayStation Camera

PictureThe PS Eye next to the new PlayStation Camera

It’s likely that most PlayStation 4 owners have chosen not to buy the PlayStation Camera accessory, which is understandable given that not many launch games have made use of it and it costs about £55.00.  I on the other hand couldn’t say no, as I desperately wanted to play the pre-installed game “The PlayRoom”.  I knew this would be a brilliant experience not just for me but for the whole family.

The PlayRoom is Sony’s latest and newest augmented reality game.  I’ve previously experienced similar offerings from Sony with the PlayStation Eye and Move controller on the EyePet and Wonderbook games, which I thought were very good demonstrations of the technology, it’s just a shame that not many games were developed.  Previously the picture quality on the PS Eye camera looked a little grainy, but with the new PS4 camera everything is now in HD.  With improved graphics for the animations on screen, it looks truly amazing.

The first game we played was AR Bots (probably the best game out of the four), which essentially turns your living room into a playground for little robots.  Before you begin you will see a flying robot called Asobi beam lots of tiny bots into your DualShock 4 controller.  The girls thought it was really fun when they shook the controller and could feel them crashing into each other.  You then have to swipe the touchpad forward, which sends the individual bots flying out of the controller and onto your living room floor.  There are some really cool features such as if you wave at the AR Bots they will wave back or you can vacuum them back into the controller by clicking the touch pad.  There is also an app (Toy Maker) available for download on your phone or tablet that allows you draw 2D shapes and send them into the PlayRoom, where they will be rendered in 3D.

Other games available are Asobi (a pet like robot who can recognise players through facial recognition), Air Hockey (a game that requires two controllers) and My Alien Buddy (a green alien who flies around in a spaceship knocking over structures and beaming up cows).  Asobi is quite similar to the EyePet but with less toys to play with.  The only interaction I found with Asobi was to hit him so he would fire missiles at you or turn your head into a block of ice.  It’s quite annoying that Air Hockey requires two controllers, especially for those cash strapped families, but it’s an interesting take on a classic two player game.  The hockey table can be bent or stretched on the TV screen by using the controller’s lightbar.  The paddle is controlled using the touchpad.  My Alien Buddy is a free add-on that needs to be downloaded from the PlayStation store.  It’s a really silly game and doesn’t take too long to figure out.  You control a green slimy alien in a spaceship using the lightbar, crashing into towers made out of bricks, and you also get to use a tractor beam to collect cows (strange I know!).  The alien’s hands can be moved with the analogue sticks or you can make him dance by tapping x, circle, square and triangle.

From a technical standpoint the PlayStation Camera is light in weight and feels like a quality made product, and it’s able to connect to the rear of your PS4 via an auxiliary port.  The camera includes two 1280 x 800 pixel lenses, which are used for depth detection of players and objects in the room.  This also helps with the new facial recognition feature.  By simply standing in front of the camera, it will recognise who the player is and log them into their PSN account.  The camera has a 4 channel microphone built in, which can be used during online gameplay or to control the console via voice commands.  At present the voice commands are quite limited but the PlayStation team are developing more for this.  Hopefully this will be updated soon through a patch. 

I’ve seen a few reviews so far that recommend not buying a PlayStation camera just yet.  Personally I think it’s best use comes in the the form of social interaction.  I haven’t yet mentioned the ability to stream your gameplay, or being able to watch other players play games, using the services provided by Ustream and Twitch.  It’s something that PC gamers have been enjoying for many years and hopefully it will enhance online multiplayer even more.

Since launch the PlayStation Camera has become a rare item to buy online, with the likes of Amazon only able to offer purchases through their third party market place (usually going for about £100.00!).  Zavvi currently have the best offer at £44.99 but stock doesn’t arrive until the 7th February.