Wonderbook was always going to be a relatively tough sell. Despite initial release, Book of Spells, showing plenty of promise and coming from the creative mind of one J.K. Rowling no less, the fact of the matter is, from a purely monetary perspective, it’s a big bloody ask. Beyond buying the actual Wonderbook itself, punters were also asked to purchase a PS Move controller and PS Eye. All in all, a lot of money and a lot of new stuff…….and all for one game no less. The thing is, Book of Spells, while solid enough, arguably didn’t warrant the cost, but with new games on the horizon and, more importantly, the excellent Diggs Nightcrawler ready in the here and now, that purchase is beginning to look like an increasingly wise investment.
From Moonbot Studio’s, the group who recently won an Oscar for their short film and interactive iPad app, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, Wonderbook has been turned from an interesting curio and largely underused piece of augmented reality technology into something new, exciting and above all else, utterly essential to the experience had on screen.
While Book of Spells, despite some interesting uses, largely fell back on Move control, Diggs Nightcrawler is almost exclusively about the book itself. Twisting, tilting, bending and shaking are all used as the book itself becomes the core of the entire gaming experience. From movement and puzzles to basic combat and exploration, just about everything is achieved with the Wonderbook. There is still room for a few Move-based mechanics, but for the most part, the book itself is the star of the show.
It may be a big step up in terms of both technical quality and implementation, but it’s arguably the game itself that makes Diggs Nightcrawler and subsequently the peripherals required to experience it justifiable purchases. Yes, it’s a very short game with the original run through unlikely to take anything over 2-3 hours, but this is a game that youngsters in particular will return to time and time again. It’s not just for kids though mind; with its snappy script, noire trappings and slick presentation, Diggs Nightcrawler successfully bridges the gap between young and old by creating a genuinely brilliant piece of family entertainment.
With its constant references to you as a character in the story, Diggs Nightcrawler is exceptionally immersive stuff. For kids, this is about as close to being in an actual videogame world as they’re likely to find and for adults, it’s often just as much fun to watch as it is to actually play. I’ve never been one for watching others play videogames, but there is something about the mechanics and augmented reality design that makes observing just as much fun as playing. Of course, it helps that the game is absolutely gorgeous. From both a technical and artistic standpoint, few games this gen have managed to marry art design to mechanics quite as well as Moonbot have managed here. Being a Wonderbook exclusive, it’s unlikely to receive the kudos it deserves, but this really is one of the best looking games of the year…….seriously, I mean it.
The mechanics are all simple enough, but the use of the Wonderbook throughout works exceptionally within the confines of the often brilliantly told tale. With its magical combination of noire tropes and traditional fairytale character design, your search for the Humpty Dumpty murderer will prove an enjoyable one regardless of age or gender and yes, while it is short, the use of Move as a magnifying glass for additional investigations, certainly gives Diggs Nightcrawler additional longevity. It’s not a massive game by any stretch of the imagination, but kudos to Moonbot who have done a good great job of extending the playtime without delivering too much in the way of useless filler. There are a few technical hiccups too, but get the camera in the right position and both Wonderbook and Diggs control like a charm.
Like a 50’s murder mystery with Humphrey Bogart replaced with some kind of charismatic worm, bug hybrid, Diggs Nightcrawler delivers on Wonderbook’s early promise, providing a pleasantly surprising change in fortune for a peripheral that had become a bit of a joke to many in the industry. If future releases can match the quality of Moonbot’s exceptional family friendly noire, then Wonderbook might yet prove the success that Sony had hoped for.
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