Review: Wonderbook: Diggs Nightcrawler

the Three Little Pigs serve well as bumbling police officers…

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Sony’s Wonderbook had a bit of a rocky start to its life. While the Book of Spells certainly gave a decent demo of how the Wonderbook peripheral worked, its briefness and shallow link to the Harry Potter world wasn’t appreciated by those looking for an engrossing Potter experience. And so it falls to Diggs Nightcrawler to give the Wonderbook a bit of a lift, and show owners of the PS Eye that there’s something new and genuinely interesting going on.

For those who aren’t aware of the Wonderbook it’s a hardback book, consisting of a series of pages each with a unique pattern of shapes printed on it. Using the magic of augmented reality the PS Eye recognises not only which page is open, but also the angle and tilt of the book, and makes your lounge come alive on your TV by overlaying various bits and bobs based on where the book is. Diggs Nightcrawler uses the Wonderbook in a way that’s far more interactive than Book of Spells, and instead of just being a base for things to happen actually becomes a physical controller for the story.

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And that’s exactly what this is – an interactive story. Following the investigation of the murder of Humpty Dumpty you drift through a film noir style story, complete with mini-monologues and muted trumpet background music. It’s a beautifully executed style, as rain bounces off the book and misty graveyards fog up your living room. The use of the book as an input method is spot on, twisting, turning and shaking the book all have important roles to play in helping Nightcrawler get around and catch his suspects. You’ll even need to open and close the book to manipulate the scenery in order for our wormy hero to access areas or escape from trouble. Aside from a few moments when the Eye lost sight of the book (generally solved by sitting the camera higher up) each action was displayed in perfect realtime on the TV, complete with the relevant AR detail perfectly matching the movement. Impressive.

Despite being aimed at a younger audience the story is actually quite enjoyable for someone past their younger years too, although there’s little doubt that you’ll get the most out of it with a kid or two nearby to help out. Unusually for a PS Eye based game you’ll get away with hardly touching the Move controller first time round, but once you’ve finished the story (something which took me somewhere near 4 hours) you can replay each chapter, this time using the Move as a torch or magnifying glass to help you find other little hidden secrets. Being able to rotate the book to see other areas of the scene work well in this sense too, and whether you’re in a cutscene or a more interactive section you can rotate the entire scene at will just by moving the book around, and doing so may just help you find a little secret or two…

There’s some great use of classic characters too – the Three Little Pigs serve well as bumbling police officers, and there are notable contributions from Little Bo Peep and Itsy Bitsy Spider among others. It’s just more for the little ones to enjoy, as they see some popular characters that they’ll have already heard about playing out a fascinating story in front of them.

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The price is nice too – at a smidgen under £14 it’s more expensive than a normal kids book, but there’s plenty to enjoy here for that price. The ability to go through the story again with the Move offering extra functionality is a nice touch, but will people be inclined to sit through the story more than once when they know how it ends? Maybe; there are plenty of trophies on offer and things to look for that you might’ve previously missed, but it might be worth giving it a break of a few weeks before you go for a second run. And let’s not forget this is aimed at the younger members of your family, and although I’m glad I went through it to experience this very impressive technology, I doubt I’d rush out and buy it for my own enjoyment.

With further titles on the way including Walking with Dinosaurs and a new J.K.Rowling title, the Wonderbook is starting to look like a worthwhile addition for family gamers. Diggs Nightcrawler is a far better example of the technology than Book of Spells was, and with a few more enjoyable titles like this I can see many more of these Wonderbooks being snapped up in the coming months.

Reviewed on PS3

Wonderbook: Diggs Nightcrawler
Wonderbook: Diggs Nightcrawler
Date published: 2012-07-04
8 / 10
 
 

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