The first generation of Wonderbook games were technically impressive but came across as perhaps a little bit higgled-piggledly in terms of progression. The developers who have spent time looking at existing Wonderbook games and spent more time working on newer titles seem to have taken this on board because like a story, Walking with Dinosaurs has a beginning, middle and an end, which coherent progression throughout.
If you haven’t come across the Wonderbook, it’s an augmented reality device for the Playstation 3. Basically the PS3 eye camera reads the printed code on the Wonderbook which allows the game to know when you turn a page to progress the story or trigge an event. Although you’re holding a simple printed book, if you look on the TV, the screen will show you (via the Eye camera) with a large magical book in front of you. I’ve not explained this very well but if you look at the trailer for Walking with Dinosaurs it will become much clearer:
Right, does that make it clearer then? Good. When Wonderbook came out this time last year with the Book of Spells it was very impressive but some of the subsequent titles have suffered a bit from a focus on the medium rather than the gameplay. Fortunately Walking with Dinosaurs has been made by the chaps who did the rather fabulous PSVita adaption of Little Big Planet. They know how to make a fab game and they’ve bought this skill over to the Wonderbook.
Despite the visuals, the original TV series was at heart and educational programme and I was both surprised and pleased to see that this element had made it’s way over to the Wonderbook. There are little tests of what you’ve learnt every turn of the page or so, which makes it a lot easier to justify letting your kids play it for an extended period of time. What we found with Fifi and the boy was they would take it in turns to do a spread- the game is single player- so there would often be a bit of discussion on what was going on with only the odd bit of blind rage when Fifi stoutly ignored the advice of her older sibling. Although the game is marked 7+, the boy (6) had no issue with it and Fifi is super bright for an almost 5 year old (the content is appropriate, I did check it first).
I’m all for learning by stealth and by following the adventures of Juniper and Patchi, the kids were inadvertently learning quite a lot about dinosaurs- moreso than a lifetime obsession with Harry and his bucketful of dinosaurs had taught them at any rate.
The visuals and polish are as good as I remembered from the Sony Summer event we saw Walking with Dinosaurs at, and at home the motion tracking from the camera is a lot better than it was in a bright busy display hall. Interaction is done via a combination of turning the Wonderbook pages and using the Move motion controller. It really is rather immersive.
The boy has actually been on an archaelogical dig courtesy of wifey being a qualified field archaeologist, so when it came to the parts of the game that required excavation via the Move controller he took charge in a very competent manner. It was lovely to see!
If you have a camera and move controller, this is a no brainer and will cost you a paltry £24.99. If you need the full kit and kaboodle, it comes to a still reasonable £44.99. It’s well worth the money, we had such fun.