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The Eye of Judgment
Score: 75%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: SCE Studios Japan
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Card Games/ Board Games/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:
The Eye of Judgment looks and sounds pretty good. The graphics are full of interesting looking characters, particle-effecty spells and cool environments. The animated battle sequences are very pretty; pretty enough that I tend to leave them turned on, even though they generally slow down the gameplay.

While the graphics are good, what makes this game awesome is its musical score. I was expecting orchestral fantasy-type music, perhaps, but instead what you get is something between alternative rock and (pre?-) industrial, perhaps something that a Dwarven blacksmith might listen to on his iPod as he charges into battle. Or, something like that.

Overall, the presentation in The Eye of Judgment is top notch. It wouldn't have any technical detractors at all, if it weren't for the sometimes finicky camera.


Gameplay:
The Eye of Judgment is upon you...

...literally. The Eye of Judgment uses (and, in fact, ships with) the PlayStation Eye, the new and improved PS3 version of the Eye-Toy. As a result, part of the graphics will include video taken by the camera. However, The Eye of Judgment includes a special stand for the PlayStation Eye, which holds it in the appropriate position to view the game board (an included fabric board), so the most you'll really see is your hands as you place cards or move them around.

There are a few different modes of play, but the main thrust is that The Eye of Judgment is a two player CCG game where you strive to be the first player to control five of the nine squares on the board. There is a cost associated with placing one of your creatures on a square on the game-board (or "summoning" them) as well as costs for using spell cards to "cast spells" that affect the creatures and the board. The trick is to successfully manage the cost of using the cards while you try to control more squares and kill your opponent's creatures to reduce the number of squares they control.

The one player game and the two player game are pretty much the same, with the exception of your opponent. The online multiplayer is different, however, as the game selects your cards for you and indicates on-screen which cards you selected.


Difficulty:
I am not a big collectible card game player, but I was excited about playing The Eye of Judgment. However, the fact that I have little experience in CCGs might have something to do with the fact that I found the A.I. to be quite challenging. And, by challenging, I mean it kicked my butt on Normal and I still lost when I played on Beginner (the easiest of the five difficulty levels).

The main thing that contributes to the difficulty in The Eye of Judgment is the various rules and aspects to consider when you make your moves. For example, the creatures that you place on the different squares of the game-board can gain either a bonus or a penalty, depending on whether the element of the creature is of the same type or the opposite element. Fire on Fire gives a bonus, where a Water creature on a Fire square gets a penalty. This bonus (or penalty) is to the tune of two hit points. If you place your creature on a square of the same element, you gain 2 points to your health. If you place a creature on the opposite element square, you lose 2 points... and, if that creature had two or less hit points, your characters will die instantly, without getting an opportunity to even make an attack. This is truly sad when you accidentally do this, especially since the game "turns on a dime" as J.R. Nip put it; one wrong move can seriously turn the tide of the game and, possibly, even end it.

Another issue I had that added to the difficulty and, I suppose, the aggravation, were camera issues. Mainly, the PlayStation Eye has similar light demands to the PS2's Eye-Toy. Specifically, the normal lighting in my entertainment room was too dim for the PlayStation Eye to accurately pick up card placements, on occasion. I improved this a bit by replacing a light bulb and removing the dome from the overhead light on a ceiling fan. I also adjusted the camera settings in the Options menu. Even with all of this, there would be the occasional card reading issue. My main advice concerning this issue is to test your setup in the camera settings screen with a card in each of the squares on the board, not just one in the center. Also, bear in mind that the camera options screen will only light up a symbol over five of the cards at a time. If you want to test the other four spots, you'll need to remove the cards that have already been recognized or simply cover them with your hands.

One final thing that was a bit difficult in The Eye of Judgment is only an issue in Online duels. When you play against an online opponent, you select a registered deck, as usual, but the game deals your cards to you. Of course, it does this in software; it has no way to physically hand you a card. However, when you go to actually play one of the cards you've been dealt, you have to use the actual (physical) card to make the play. That means that when you are "dealt" your cards by the computer, you have to quickly find the physical cards that match the ones you've been assigned and put them into your hand. This adds a level of frustration, especially if you don't have your cards laid out in some arrangement that makes them easier to find. Take that as fair warning.


Game Mechanics:
I have to start out by saying that I love the concept behind The Eye of Judgment. It seems like a really cool concept from the gameplay point of view, as well as being interesting from the CCG business model. However, as much as I love the idea of using a camera in videogames, the PlayStation Eye's light requirements can cause some bothersome delays and frustration as you try to get the game to recognize a card. This doesn't occur all of the time, but it happened to me frequently enough to be an aggravation. Additionally, The Eye of Judgment has minimal feedback for certain invalid card placement attempts. If every attempt to place a card into play was visually indicated on-screen, and invalid attempts were clearly marked as being against the rules, you would at least know that the camera was correctly detecting the card. As it is, when the camera was having problems reading a card, I had to first determine if it was the camera or simply that the card was not allowed at that point. (As a note, if you are unsure, you can use the status card to test the card detection. If the game has no problem recognizing the status card, it is likely that the card is simply not allowed at that time.)

When playing against another person in the same room via the two-player mode, I found that you have to be quick to remove cards that have been killed. If not, the game would, occasionally, assume that the card was a new card being played and would summon it again. Every time this happened, it was too late to use the cancel card to undo the summon, so I would have to just forfeit a card and act like I had played the card that was accidentally re-summoned. There really was no other way to proceed. Luckily, if you stay mindful of the need to quickly remove cards that have been killed, this can be avoided.

In the end, The Eye of Judgment is a fun game, but it comes across as a somewhat temperamental implementation of a really good concept. There are several glitches that come from the camera or The Eye of Judgment's use of the camera, as well as the annoying mechanic of having to find the physical representation of the card the game "deals" to you in the online multiplayer mode. All-in-all, The Eye of Judgment is a game I enjoy and would play again for fun, but probably mostly in Single Player mode, as it has far fewer issues that the multiplayer modes. Luckily, The Eye of Judgment's Single Player mode is very challenging, even in the easiest difficulty setting, so there should be months of replay value... even without purchasing booster packs.


-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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