Wonderbook: Diggs Nightcrawler satisfies more often than not, if barely. The cartoonish graphics fit the game's fairy tale setting, and the large cast of fully voiced characters is cute and funny. The story, though unexpectedly short (a few hours at most), should keep most kids' interest. The action, on the other hand, is a mixed bag. Some of the augmented reality activities -- tilting the book to make the cover of a crypt slide off its base, twisting the book to examine different walls of a room -- are clever, intuitive, and satisfying. Others -- such as tilting the book to steer a motorbike, or spinning it to direct Diggs to walk in a specific direction -- are clumsy and grow old fast.
It's not very long, and some of the activities get repetitive pretty quickly, but kids who enjoyed the Harry Potter-themed Wonderbook: Book of Spells and have been aching for something new to do with Sony's augmented-reality platform should enjoy themselves. You just might want to wait until the price comes down a bit.
As you’d expect, the animation and references here are pitch perfect. Think Humphrey Bogart and Roman Polanski, as you explore Library City -- a setting that could have been plucked from the brush of Edward Hopper.
It’s a world constructed of everyday things, the artefacts you’d find in and around a Library. In this place we follow the story of the “Humpty Dumpty Murders” that quickly spiral into a tale of mixed up manuscripts and muddled fairy tales.
While some may criticise Diggs Nightcrawler for focusing more on narrative than the exuberant wand interaction of Book of Spells, that is to misjudge it. The experience is more subtle here but the interactions are no less immersive. Every inch, fold, twist, turn, shake and tilt of the Wonderbook is required to progress through the game.
Sat on the living room floor in front with a family playingDiggs Nightcrawlers feels natural and instinctive to control. At the same time though something magical is happening. Almost without even noticing it, player’s actions and involvement in the physical book transform the story from one they are watching into something they are taking part in.
This more ambitious use of the technology is not without its hiccups, but we found that once we had moved the PlayStation Eye camera to a position above the screen it worked almost perfectly.
We also got confused trying to select previous chapters – where you can go back and investigate each scene with the Move controlled magnifying glass. It took some time to realise that you had to tilt the book on the chapter select screen to move between them.
A nice touch is that even in the pre-scripted set pieces you can rotate and tilt the book to peer into the pop-up pictures and see what is happening out of shot or round the back.
There are high action moments where you control Digg’s shooting and finding cover, as well as puzzles that involve some complex folding and turning.
As mentioned, the use of the Move controlled magnifying glass allows players to spot hard to find objects and interact with each scene in different ways. This not only adds interest, but offers a reason to replay chapters – extending the running time of the game beyond that of a single play through (which took us four hours).
I would have preferred Diggs Nightcrawler to be a little longer but its £13.99 price tag for those who already own the Wonderbook, PlayStation Eye and Move controller is still very good value. Curiously I couldn’t find a pack online that included the game and the peripheral, for those who don’t want to buy Book of Spells this will be an important SKU.
Watching my kids play through Diggs Nightcrawler it was interesting to see how strong a connection they had to both the genre and the play style. Certainly, playing a game with a book feels a very different way to spend time that sat staring at their handhelds.
With more titles from the BBC and Disney waiting in the wings, and other possibilities abounding, this is a promising platform on the PS3. Provided these experiences are not too long in arriving Wonderbook should have a strong year.
Andy Robertson is a freelance gaming expert for the BBC and produces the Family Gamer channel