Released over two years ago, Sony’s PlayStation Move device has been rather unappreciated. Comparable to the Wii’s controller, it offers an excellent level of control when used properly. So it’s slightly confusing that the latest (and only the second, in truth) entry into the Wonderbook series, doesn’t appear to make much use of the Move wand at all. But rather than being a negative, this actually removes a barrier to entry because where Book of Spells had you flailing arms about, casting spells like a Hogwarts wizard, Diggs Nightcrawler puts you in control of the environment, in a tale that is as charming as it is clever.
You don’t play as Diggs, which might be a surprise, instead you play yourself: the kid. You can’t control any character directly, instead you have to move your Wonderbook around to make things happen in the World. As with Book of Spells, the technology is impressively robust and despite moving the AR book all over the place, the camera tracks it all the time, never offering up any glitches or broken visuals.
Whilst I’m sure that at some point you’ll have to use the Move wand, the first chapter is exclusively based upon moving the book, and using your hands. But let’s back up a bit, Diggs’ friend Humpty Dumpty has been murdered, and the three little pigs (cops in Diggs Nightcrawler) suspect he is to blame, thanks to what appears to be the real criminal having framed you. The first interaction of note comes when Diggs chases the criminal, and you have to select which path he takes by rotating the book in the direction you want him to go.
It gets more impressive though, as a later scene has Diggs at the crime scene with the three little pigs and you have to help Diggs find the pieces of Humpty that are hidden in the environment. Diggs knows where to look, but he can’t see because it’s too dark. Tilt the book and the lamp that hangs in the alley will swing over Diggs, lighting up his location and allowing him to find a piece of his friend.
Environmental puzzles make up the bulk of this first chapter, but there are also simpler interactions that just ask you to clap or shout – you can just hit “X” on the Move wand if you’re in a noisy place – to tell Diggs when to act. Again, Diggs will set up in position, you just need to give him a friendly nudge when to spring into action. It’s simple, intuitive, and nary a wand will be swung.
In fact, I have to presume that later chapters will use the Move controller in a more direct manner, because based on this chapter, there’s little that couldn’t be done with a standard PlayStation 3 controller, which is fine, and turning the book around 180 degrees to see what lies behind a door is a pretty gleeful experience.
However, Diggs Nightcrawler – like Book of Spells before it – is most definitely aimed at a younger audience. Designed to get Children interacting with the story and Diggs’ adventure – and it works, too. Young children will enjoy the shouting at the TV screen moments and older children will adore the colourful visuals, but also appreciate the film-noir, crime thriller style to the story. Parents will enjoy being able to play a video game with their children and the only question really comes down to the barriers to entry. Requiring the Wonderbook itself, a PS Move and PS Eye peripheral, it’s a good thing the game is releasing at a budget price. Though the tech itself is interesting and works as well as any augmented reality I’ve ever seen, it’s still a niche product.
Diggs Nightcrawler will be released on May 29, exclusively for PlayStation 3.