E3 2015: ‘Curiouser and Curiouser’ is What Wonderbook Should Have Been

There’s something about the work of Lewis Carroll which continues to inspire adaptation year after year. There have been innumerable film versions of the books, television shows and even video games. There’s never been a video game quite like Curiouser and Curiouser, though. In fact, it’s not just a different adaptation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, it’s more of a rethinking of interactive entertainment all together. The closest comparison I’ve got is Wonderbook. You know, that property that Sony hoped would revitalize the PlayStation Eye camera as well as the Move. So, think back to the Wonderbook, but instead of playing with a blank piece of paper imagine that you’ve been given a real book.

Curiouser and Curiouser does just that. There is a digital game which plays, yes, but it does so as players flip through a gigantic pop-up book. The game begins with Alice onscreen standing between doors of different sizes. In front of her lies a magical drink and a cupcake. Both invite consumption. At this point the open page allows the player to poke at which item they wish for her to consume. I couldn’t help but drink the mystery beverage to grow smaller and smaller, until I fit into the littlest door. Somehow this just felt like the right choice for my concept of Alice.

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With that, players turn the page as the story progresses on both on screen and off it. My journey was not tremendously long, but full of interesting moments. For example, on one page I was required to open the letter on the page (yes, a real letter unfurled and explained a puzzle). The goal was to assemble a bunch of flat geometric pieces into the silhouette of a bunny. Given my poor puzzle solving skills, I quickly gave up. With that said there was also the solution lurking on the page as well. After examining it I pretended to complete the puzzle and continued onward.

Another adorable puzzle had me playing a game of croquet with The Queen of Hearts. In order to interact and “hit” the ball, I first needed my mallet. In proper Lewis Carroll fashion, it was a fluffy, soft flamingo which I plucked straight off the page. It connected to a ring (which was also facilitated by the book) on my finger. Flicking my flamingo-enhanced finger on the page made the ball move on screen. It was tremendously cute to see the multiple ways in which developers paired the digital game with interactivity within their book. By the end of the demo I was charmed and surprised by the effectiveness of the technology.

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Honestly, it’s thanks to the charm of Curiouser and Curiouser that I didn’t even consider its creation until after the fact. As it turned out, the underlying technology is actually quite simple. The book is powered by the likes of an Arduino board and parts pulled from greeting cards of all things. With all that said, I’d really love it if at least a few other video games would experiment with physical interfaces in this way. The biggest problem? Something like this isn’t feasible on a large scale. Right now there is only one of these books out there and I was just fortunate enough to see it during its brief stint in the E3 IndieCade area.

If you ever have the chance to play Curiouser and Curiouser then I suggest you take it. The handcrafted visuals (both within the game and from the book itself) will most certainly charm even the most serious of gamers. The narration only furthers that, though the book-based gameplay is really what makes this experience unforgettable.