Sony’s Wonderbook Was Actually Kinda Cool, You Know

The Wonderbook wasn’t all that bad really, despite what you may hear from a lot of gamers. Truth is, most of these naysayers won’t even have even touched Sony’s family-centred peripheral yet still have a bad word to say about it. Such irrational dislike can be traced back to E3 2012 where Sony made a meal of demoing this new, innovative product.

As we slowly trundled out of the noughties, these kinds of game were becoming more prevalent, egged on by Nintendo’s rampant success with the Wii. Sony and Microsoft desperately clambered to cater for this thriving casual market with varying levels of success on both sides.

By populating their lineups with family friendly titles, that meant a sizeable chunk of time was designated to showcasing these products. With Wonderbook, however, Sony really took the biscuit. Sat before a room of disengaged press, the AR technology was put on display. Although impressive from a technical standpoint, there was nothing there for core gamers to latch on to. With only one compatible game in the pipeline, this seemingly galvanised people’s opinions towards the Wonderbook.

For some reason I still ended up buying one. Just weeks after launch the price tumbled to the point where my temptation got the better of me. That said, easing into life at university meant that it was soon retired, just like any book I’ve started only to be distracted by something else.

However, having carted the Wonderbook from house to house and shelf to shelf, I recently bit the bullet, broke the spine, and settled down to play. Instead of popping in Book of Spells, the Harry Potter inspired launch title, I went for the one compatible game that had previously caught my eye.

Developed by Oxford-based Exient Games, Diggs Nightcrawler is a charming patchwork of fairy tales and nursery rhymes, painted over with heavy strokes of crime noir. It’s a beautiful blending of themes and, even though heavy on its tropes, manages to appeal to all ages.

Without these largely non-gameplay aspects, it’s hard to say whether Diggs would have the same effect. Throughout you engage in numerous puzzles, physically moving the Wonderbook itself in order to solve them.

diggs2

Of course, tilting and spinning such a large peripheral can feel a bit clumsy. Then you have to consider the outdated technology powering last gen’s PlayStation Eye – a beefed up EyeToy that does a surprisingly good job in tracking your movements.

With a finite number of pages, each flip through of the Wonderbook would be enough to fill one of Diggs’ three short chapters. By using a PlayStation Move controller, players can even go back to past locations using a probe-like camera.

Both the Wonderbook and Diggs Nightcrawler don’t get enough praise. Picking on casual games is like shooting fish in a barrel, especially when they’re tied to somewhat gimmicky peripherals. Although it may not have been a runaway success for Sony, the two Wonderbook titles I’ve played prove how just how well the tech works.

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Written by
Senior Editor bursting with lukewarm takes and useless gaming trivia. May as well surgically attach my DualShock at this point.

12 Comments

  1. I loved the idea of it and I think it was ahead of its time. Just that marketing. Or lack thereof. Whoever did Sony’s promotion for the majority of the PS3 failed hard sometimes.

    Where were the children’s TV adverts? The back page comic ads? The “Hands-on” demos in shopping centres? The marketing didn’t match the target audience. It was cool to briefly show at E3, but not so in-depth at a hardcore gaming audience. Spend the effort and time at the people the stories were written for, children.

    Oh well, hopefully lesson learnt.

  2. I thought it was a pretty neat idea. Not everything on a gaming console has to be for teens and twenty-somethings.

  3. Diggs Nightcrawler is a fantastic game – and so was Walking With Dinosaurs. I have played them both over and over and really liked them. Less so the Harry Potter duo. I just wished there was some more because it kind of fell off before it got going.

    And Diggs has enough hidden smut for parents and like minded filthies ;)

  4. Diggs was the only game that piqued my interest in Wonderbook but not enough to invest in it at the time. I can see Wonderbook VR being a thing.

  5. You can buy it for less than a tenner on Amazon. Considered picking it up a few months ago but I’ve given my PS3 away now.

  6. If Nintendo had done this, it would have been the next big thing for casual gamers to climb on board and for us more enthusiastic folk to embrace and try something different. Such a shame.

    This, for me, highlights one of Sony’s biggest problems. They can come up with a wonderful idea then completely shoot themselves in the foot with it. :-\

  7. Add it to the big list of things Sony have developed, produced them abandoned.
    Mini disc
    Playstation move
    Playstation vita
    Etc. (I know there’s plenty more I can’t find the energy to dig my brain).
    Point being it puts me off ever being an early adopter of Sony stuff because there’s always a chance it’ll be abandoned and your money wasted. For that reason I never experienced Wonder Book.

    • Minidisc? Sony created those in 1992 and kep plugging away at them even though they never really went mainstream. They kept releasing new models despite MP3 CD players and iPods and similar things. 2013 was when they finally stopped selling their last remaining models.

      Totally abandoned… ;)

      • To be fair to Sony, they were in two-thirds of all Hi-Fis sold in Japan so it was the reason they were trying to convince the rest of the world that they want one.

  8. I played (my son did :D) it was brilliant game (he enjoyed it) it was a platinum worth the play, he was very proud of it.

    They could do a VR experience of this, it would be amazing if done right

  9. I loved Diggs Nightcrawler and quite enjoyed Walking With Dinosaurs and yes, Wonderbook was a bit of a classic PS3 innovation that didn’t get any love from Sony and ultimately the consumers. Other examples were (partially) Move in general and games like Puppeteer and Sorcery.

    I could really see some great ideas being brought to life with wonderbook on PS4 in AR, however, I can’t really see it working in VR.

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