Wonderbook: Book of Spells adds yet another innovative feather to Sony’s cap. The game utilises Augmented Reality (AR) technology as seen with other titles such as EyePet to portray on screen, images that you can interact with using your Move controller. Sony has managed to recruit one of the world’s most renowned authors, J. K. Rowling, to help with the first title The Book of Spells which is based on the Harry Potter World and will introduce the player to Harry Potter themed spellcasting, stories and mini games essentially allowing Wizard training for Muggles. Currently there are two more games in production including a detective game (Diggs Nightcrawler) and BBC’s Walking with Dinosaurs.
The Wonderbook itself is of a decent size (roughly A4); it is of a solid design with soft covering on front and back and includes 12 sturdy pages each with various symbols that will allow the camera to detect what image it should display depending on the game being played. When you reach the end of the book you will be given options to continue by closing the book and selecting a new chapter on the front cover. This works very well, so you needn’t have any fear of running out of pages to play.
Where I found the game stuttered was in the speed in which you play it. Obviously the intended audience is the younger Potter fans (5-10) and therefore it has lengthy tutorials for each and every spell you learn, understandably this has a downside – it can become a little monotonous. To break up some of the learning aspects there are stories done in puppet stylised plays which look great (especially when you pick the book up and move it around to examine all the different angles), and also some mini games such as firing spells at paper creatures or re-potting Mandrake plants using the levitation spell. The problem with trying to skip ahead some of the more mundane parts is that you risk missing objectives which can consequently leave you stranded as to how to proceed – much like I did. However if you have the patience to listen carefully to the instructions you should coast along nicely.
The gameplay mechanics work well, I noticed occasional glitches where the camera may lose line of sight of the book or Move controller (revealing their true physical identities) but otherwise it all looked great on screen. When you required more room to cast spells the game appearance would open up the Potter world and shrink your image down. This is so that you could more easily interact with a larger environment. As mentioned the game is suited to a young HP target audience but you may also need some adult assistance for the younger ones in the house in case they get stuck.
Overall the game package has a lot to offer, the book and game together is available at a very reasonable price of just under $70 and if you don’t have a Move and Eye Camera then you can buy a boxed set of everything you need (Wonderbook, game, Move and Eye) for an incredible price of $120 (the Move bundle on its own is retailing around $90). I think the game could have included a little more action to keep the interest up but certainly does a fine job of offering wizardry instruction for all those budding Harry Potter wizards and witches out there.
There isn’t anything else like this on the market for fans of the series and it does look quite delightful watching your Move controller turn into a wand of your choice and using it to cast all manner of spells. The younger ones especially will be amazed at how it all works. This game would make a magical Xmas for the many HP fans out there. The Wonderbook is a great concept and I hope that there is enough interest to allow more developers to jump on the bandwagon. [7.5]
Platform: PlayStation 3
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: SCE London Studio