If you weren’t already aware, Wonderbook is the latest peripheral to be released to enhance the PS3 gaming experience: it is an augmented reality experience that gives gamers a large blue hardback book, filled with strange geometric shapes (a little like barcodes) that works in conjunction with a normal PS Move controller to bring the book’s pages alive on the screen.
The first title released with the peripheral is the JK Rowling endorsed Book Of Spells – a clever conceit based on the Potter universe book of the same name, written by Miranda Goshawk, which collects a raft of colourful spells, and which the gamer is guided through by a Hogwart’s professor, exploring five main chapters of content that will delight and beguile Potter fans.
As you make your way through the book, the object is to master the various spells, combining vocal commands with a specific Move controller movements (though on examination, the vocal commands don’t actually matter so much, as long as you make a noise at the right time). The player is then tasked with using the spells to complete some mini-game like tasks, which are somewhat frustratingly limited and don’t really take advantage of the bountiful opportunities of the Potter world, until the last chapter when the object is to conjure a Patronus and repel Dementors and werewolves who are attacking a village. That final chapter is extremely entertaining, and though the rest of the game is disposably diverting enough, it suggests that there could have been a lot more depth here, rather than the Wii-lite type activities the players are charged with completing.
There are also collectibles and house points to pick up along the way, though they don’t really offer much in terms of real rewards beyond the experience of actually collecting them. But it’s still enjoyable to traverse this JK Rowling endorsed world as a fans, picking up points, and building a visual library of collectibles, even if there’s no mention of Harry, Ron, Hermione and Co, and little to actually do with Hogwarts. That’s the appeal of Book Of Spells: to Potter fans who want some new media, and in those terms it represents a good purchase.
The appeal to other non-Potter-loving gamers might not be so pronounced, but there is still enough to be impressed with in the technology, which really shows off the capabilities of the Move tech, and how much better it is than XBox’s far less reliable Kinect tech. There’s precious little in terms of substance for non-Potter fans, and without the rose-tinted glasses on, gameplay is actually pretty limited, but you can’t knock the exceptional production values: the game looks and sounds exquisite, and it is designed extremely well, regardless of the lack of depth.
In all honesty, the technology is a lot more impressive than the Book of Spells game itself is – but then, as a massive Harry Potter fan myself, I am wholly aware that the game will likely be an essential purchase for fellow Potter fans, and that the decision to launch the peripheral with such a release makes sense for Sony. And it is still always a pleasure to see more Harry Potter content released while the world continues to wonder whether JK Rowling might indeed dip back into her wizarding world for further novels.
And there is more than enough promise in the upcoming Wonderbook releases – especially in the Walking With Dinosaurs title – to suggest that the Wonderbook might have a little more success for Sony than the PS Move has had to date.
In short, if you love Harry Potter and want a new experience, buy it – if you’re intrigued by the technology, and looking for something casual to play, buy it, but if you’re expecting something substantial, it’s perhaps advisable to look elsewhere.
Wonderbook: Book Of Spells is available to buy now. You can also win an opportunity to win a Super Slim PS3 plus Wonderbook and Book of Spells with us here.
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