Wonderbook Book of Spells is an augmented reality title set in J.K. Rowling’s universe of witchcraft and wizardry. The boxset includes the AR Book, the game, a Playstation Move camera and Move Controller. After a couple of minutes including install I was set up.
This was my first experience with PlayStation Move, and it seemed like an ideal title to start with. Book of Spells gives you the opportunity to jump into the world of Harry Potter (although the book was written 200 years before the young wizard entered the scene), and learn to cast spells like a pro. The Move controller becomes your wand as you flip through the pages of the book learning the incantations contained within.
It was clear within the first few minutes that this is definitely a kids or young teen title. This may be obvious to many, but Potter fans may be hoping that there’s enough substance to keep adult gamers occupied. Unfortunately, this is less of a game and more of an interactive experience.
The real draw is the augmented reality aspect and Wonderbook Book of Spells pulls this off really well. The book is beautifully displayed on screen and can be moved around in real time. Not once did the camera lose sight of it or need time to catch up, and this was also true of the wand I held. The PlayStation Move controller never showed on screen, and although everything was a little slowed down, it really gave the impression of holding a wand above a magical, 3-dimensional book.
Chapter one first teaches you Wingardium Leviosa, the levitation charm. You are given the opportunity to hear more about the history of the charm that you are about to cast. In this instance it was the tale of the wizard who invented the charm told using an old-fashioned style pop-up book. At times you are able to add your own sound effects or choose an object to add into the story by pointing your wand at the same. It is possible to skip this history lesson and go straight to learning the spell itself however the story is entertaining and I would recommend listening to it at least once.
In order to cast Wingardium Leviosa and make objects (specifically a jar full of eyeballs) float around the room you must trace a pattern into the air and utter a quick incantation and BOOM you have mastered your first spell. Once activated, I could lift items and move them around. There are notes scribbled in the book by previous students which will provide tips and further ways to utilise the spell that you have just learnt.
Once you have practised the spell you need to pass an exam by demonstrating your ability to use the spell to complete simple tasks. Passing the exam earns you house points and allows you to continue to the next spell.
Although visually impressive, it is not a title that will appeal to childless Harry Potter fans. However, kids will love it as it gives a real impression of stepping into the universe and taking part in the history of Hogwarts. It’s admittedly quite expensive for a children’s toy, once you factor in the console, but if you already own a PS3 then it’s not too bad. It’s a shame that they didn’t utilize the license to create a game for long-time Potter fans, instead of those who are just experiencing it now, but I imagine families will have a good time reading the Book of Spells together.
Okay, Sony, now that I’ve spent time waving a wand around, I just have one question: When is Wonderbook: Book of Jedi coming out?
Impressions of Wonderbook Book of Spells from a Potter Fan
My husband is not an avid Harry Potter fan and so he kindly brought home the Wonderbook Book of Spells so that me and our 3 year old daughter could provide a second opinion. I had heard of the Wonderbook before playing the game and I was expecting it to be a tacky peripheral designed mainly to make Sony some easy money. I was therefore pleasantly surprised by the quality of the appearance and feel of the Wonderbook.
Whilst the Book of Spells is aimed at children aged 7 and above our daughter was captivated by her appearance on the TV and the change in the appearance of the book in front of her. She enthusiastically brushed the dust off the front cover and loved being able to see herself turn the pages of the old spellbook.
The Book of Spells comes across as more of an interactive story than a game. I love the Harry Potter books and all of the associated stories (such as The Tales of Beadle the Bard) and could therefore happily immerse myself in the world of witchcraft and wizardry for hours on end. I enjoyed choosing which wand to use and which house to join (although I have to admit I was a little disappointed when my daughter wanted us to join Ravenclaw over Gryffindor). I was also quite happy to sit and watch the stories associated with the different spells. If however you are a gamer who wants to a large amount of activity and gameplay I would suggest that this is not the game for you. Once you have cast a spell you can re-create it simply by holding the trigger button and pointing your wand in the direction that you want to send the charm. It is far from taxing to complete the tasks set and earn points for your chosen house. Having said that I am secretly looking forward to completing the chapters that I am yet to read.
It is a feel-good game that I would happily re-visit with my daughters however it is not something that I would play again and again by myself. Is the Wonderbook Book of Spells for you? My answer is that it wholly depends on what you want and expect from a Harry Potter game.