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.
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 Then you have to consider the outdated technology powering last gen’s PlayStation Eye – a beefed up EyeToy that does a surprisingly good job in tracking your movements.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.