Platform: PS3 (Move & Wonderbook required)
Developer: SCEE London Studio
After barely seven months have flown by since the release of Book of Spells, we now have a second game to play on Sony’s Wonderbook. Matt reviewed the Harry Potter accredited Book of Spells with some hope that the new peripheral would go on to great things rather than a long hiatus.
We’re fans of the Wonderbook here at Dealspwn and find its interactive pages to be a big draw even to us jaded journo types. For all you first timers, the Wonderbook is a hardback magazine-sized book with 12 card pages of AR (Augmented Reality) images that are read by the PlayStation Eye camera and turned into onscreen images that can be interacted with by moving the book and using the Move controller.
The game is best played on the floor rather on a bed. Lining up the camera to be near eye-level can be tricky without sitting on the floor, as you’ll want to be able to see the entire book and have room to move it around when required.
In the game itself you’re helping private detective Diggs Nightcrawler solve the crime of Humpty Dumpty’s murder. The setting infuses nursery rhyme characters with crime noir movies. It’s a curious blend and half of the references are going to fly over the target audience’s little heads, but the colourful animations should keep them entertained and adults will enjoy everything else.
When you turn a page, a scene unfolds, like a pop-up book, giving you a fully 3D interactive diorama. You can rotate it and lift it towards the camera to get a better look. Many of the interactions also involve tilting the book. This can move a swinging streetlight to help Diggs investigate a dark corner or maybe to help him steer the car as you chase some crooks fleeing the scene. Rotating the book can also be used to tell Diggs which path to take or telling him when to stop/start on a winding path strewn with traps. You can help Diggs out in a scrap too by slamming your hand down on the book to keep enemies away from him, whack-a-mole style.
Unlike Book of Spells, you can play through the majority of the game without the Move motion controller. Its use is optional and also very poorly explained. There are multiple photos, shown in the pause menu, to be taken in each chapter. The controller is used like a camera and pointed at the book, as if the game environment was actually at your lap and you must scan around to find the relevant images, some of which you’ll need to be quick for. Despite handling in a rather counter-intuitive manner, there’s a good chance you’ll have a crack at them when you’ve finished the game as the story only lasts for a couple of hours.
Some technical issues may test your patience during Diggs Nightcrawler. Sometimes the in-game camera zooms in, meaning it’s all too easy to accidentally move the Wonderbook out of shot of the PS Eye camera, causing the game to pause while you shuffle backwards and adjust the peripheral. If you have lots of room available it’s not so much of an issue, but the further back you are, the smaller the Wonderbook’s contents appear onscreen.
Diggs Nightcrawler and the Wonderbook in general seems like quite a tough sell overall mainly because of the requirement to buy yet more peripherals. The lack of games on the horizon is hardly encouraging either. Although, the next one is a Walking With Dinosaurs tie-in – damn right we’ll be having some of those critters running around our rooms.
If you already own a PlayStation Move setup though, the Wonderbook and its games are readily available at a cheap price and the Wonderbook itself can be stored on a bookshelf or just left on the coffee table if you want visitors to think it’s a series of blocky Rorschach images for robots.
- Impressive tech on display for all ages
- Child-friendly gameplay and short enough for them to finish
- Doesn’t cost much
- Noir setting is great for adults, but a bit wasted on the kids?
- Requires a large space for the smoothest experience
- A little light on actual gameplay
The Short Version: Even adults will be captivated by the way Wonderbook brings interactive pop-up scenes into the room. It’s generally for a younger audience, but the high production values and novelty factor may encourage older family member to get off the sofa and have a go too.