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Review

Wonderbook: Book of Spells Review

  • Game release: November 13, 2012
  • Reviewed:
  • PS3

Wonderbook: Miranda Goshawk's Book of Spells is a great augmented reality adventure that deftly imagines the experience of spell-casting at Hogwarts.

'

When it comes to capturing the imagination, few franchises do it better than Harry Potter. The idea of a magical subculture existing in our world, one that you might catch a glimpse of at any moment, is immensely intriguing. And being plucked out of your normal life and told you have magical powers? Well, who wouldn't want that? Wonderbook: Miranda Goshawk's Book of Spells is an augmented reality game aimed at giving you the chance to feel like you are playing with such powers, and thanks to some clever hardware tricks, it largely succeeds.

Book Of Spells places you in an augmented reality-version of Hogwarts, with the specific brief of learning and applying 20 of the classic Harry Potter spells, most of which featured in the books. As you progress, the spells increase in power, until you’re fighting duels and creating objects out of thin air, and feel you’ve earned your wizarding spurs. In the past, augmented reality has felt like one of those technologies that--while initially impressive to behold--struggles to maintain your attention for long. However, Wonderbook: Book Of Spells is a game that uses augmented reality to create something truly compelling.

Playing Book of Spells is as easy as getting the Move to work, although extra care is required as far as positioning the PlayStation camera is concerned; the camera has to be angled down so it gets a clear view of both you and the book peripheral. The game is designed to be used with you sitting cross-legged on the floor, with the book in front of you, but we played it sitting on a sofa with the book on our lap, and it worked fine.

Boot the game up, and the on-screen book magically transforms into the Book of Spells (thanks to a bluish cover pattern on the peripheral reminiscent of a QR code). Given that this book features heavily in J.K. Rowling's novels, it's a neat sensation to feel like you're leafing through its pages. Bear in mind though, that if you're an older Potter enthusiast that happens to be outside of the target age-range of 6-12, once you've got over the novelty of apparently possessing a sacred item from the Potterverse, the book's contents become formulaic.

Before you can start playing, you have to choose a wand type. Whichever you opt for, the wand is considerably longer than the Move in your hand. This is typical of the seemingly minor and unimportant touches in Book Of Spells that actually bring about a stunning level of immersion. Thanks to the wand appearing longer than the physical Move controller, you have to manoeuvre it with more care, because its extended portion can catch on virtual items. So while your hand tells you that you're holding a Move, your other senses (you can see yourself throughout the game) are fooled into believing that you're grasping a wand.

You're also given some Potter-related tasks, namely deciding whether or not to link Book of Spells to your Pottermore account, choosing your house, and generating a wizard photo. Once that's done, the proceedings begin with a typically cute touch: your book is covered in dust, which you must brush off with your hands. Then an owl-mail greets you, followed by a foreword from Miranda Goshawk herself. By the end of that setup preamble, it's time to take part in some proper action.

The first chapter sets the structural tone for the rest of the book: it's one of five chapters, each split into two parts. Each half-chapter contains one, two, or three spells, which are introduced before you learn their incantations and gestures. The gestures are easy to learn, thanks to onscreen prompts that display the required motions. Circles and wavy lines dance on screen along with sparkly visual flourishes that help you keep track of your wand position. You're tested on each spell's use, and every chapter concludes with a test in which you have to use all the spells together.

Beyond the spells, there are assorted other elements to keep you entertained. Occasionally, you come across jottings by the mischievous, unnamed ex-owner of the book, which generally invoke amusing little curses (even Miranda Goshawk inserts one, which makes your bogeys turn into bats and fly out of your nose). Some spells come with a colorful pop-up, diorama-style cardboard theatre, in which the stories of the wizards and witches who invented them are acted out. Pulling tabs using the Move lets you change certain words of the story, and often to humorous effect.

You're rewarded for successful spellcasting with collectibles and house points. Five to 15 house points are on offer for each chapter test. And after each chapter test, you're given a rhyming conundrum, each of which concerns the attributes required to be a great wizard. Disappointingly, you're never given the opportunity to solve these, and they're a tad easy too.

The joy of Book of Spells is in the way it sucks you into a very convincing evocation of Hogwarts. The hand of J.K. Rowling herself is easily detectable: the spells (many of which are central to the Harry Potter books) are fleshed out and given backstories laced with plenty of Rowling's trademark humour. Exercises take place in recognisable parts of Hogwarts, like the herbology lab and the library. You encounter the likes of gnomes, sphinxes, and baby dragons, and you might have to help them out by casting spells to drive away predators, or thwart their mischief making by moving Golden Galleons before they can be stolen.

Throughout the game, you see yourself in a small window, complete with book and wand. This image moves around screen depending on the in-game environment, but because it always displays a mirror-image, casting spells in the correct direction always seems intuitive, and sports an impressive amount of fine control. This is augmented reality that works--the other reality in which it places you is believable and, crucially, adheres to real-world physics.

There are some issues, though: it's a shame that only one person can play at a time, although you could envisage a bunch of kids assembling around and taking turns with the Move wand. The story fizzles out at the end too, and there isn't much replay value. But what is on offer here is a thoroughly entertaining experience for children, one that offers up unique spellcasting gameplay that's a lot of fun. Seeing a simple-looking book transform from a blue-and-white peripheral into a living thing is a truly enchanting experience, and captures so much of the character and wonder of Harry Potter. There's not a whole lot here for adults, but--within the context of children's entertainment where it resides--Wonderbook: Book of Spells is a triumph.

'
The Good
Augmented reality makes great use of the Move
Captures the magic and wonder of Harry Potter
The Bad
Little in the way of replay value
Disappointing ending
8
Great
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0 comments
NeoIostars
NeoIostars

interesting. I would love to see this extend to other games. I think it's quite a feasible concept and can be much more than just a one-game gimmick.

a1450358509
a1450358509

LOL this game is tied with BLOPS2 in the ratings!!!!! XD

blackace
blackace

If my daughter was older and into Harry Potter, I'd probably get this for her. Since she's only 3yr and have no clue who or what Harry Potter is, I'll pass. I still haven't played Sorcery yet with the MOVE. It's unfortunate that Sony pretty much gave up on the MOVE. There hasn't been any NEW games for it for awhile. Nothing interesting for the hardcore gamers, that's for sure.

dougiewolf
dougiewolf

I have just rented this game today and my wife and daughter are playing it as i write this! I have to admit i am not into the whole ps move thing but i have to say i am impressed with the wonderbook! Its not for the hard core gamer but its something new for kids and parents and lots of fun. If you can rent this do so even if its just to try once,

Borrizee
Borrizee

I'm not into that move gaming. Give me a controller and I'm the happy.

chyng85
chyng85

It's good to see Sony has made another great game~!

hadlee73
hadlee73

Nice to see a review score based on the target audience and expectations of the actual product (now if GS could just do the same with portable titles :P). I've purchased this for the kids, and am interested to see what other books come out for it in the future. I wonder if Sony have considered the possibility of developing interactive learning for adults based on this technology?

BelaidKL
BelaidKL

I am shocked! This game actually scored good after I tore it apart month by month ever since E3! ...Goes to show, never judge a book by it's cover... Get it?...  Wonderbook??... Ah, screw it

JJames3dCG
JJames3dCG

Wow, that video with the chick "growing the pumpkin" was so bad. She couldn't look less enthused about what she was doing if she were being paid too! Even still, she can't help but attempt to take a virtual bite out of the imaginary pumpkin, showing just how fun the game can be if you let it.

 

It looked like she was just acting bored and ashamed of it, because the rest of the staff were crackin' on it.

Ares_hot
Ares_hot

Wow after the mediocre e3 showing I'm surprised(and happy) that this game succeded.

Fooljeff
Fooljeff

If I had gotten the PS3 motion stuff I would snap buy this.

Trev9421
Trev9421

This looks like a fun game to rent, but I can't see actually buying it. 

woodyfr
woodyfr

I think that a real book and a card (like EyePet) would be better. So kids (or fans) could read stories about the spells and the Harry Potter universe.

RIIIIKU
RIIIIKU

.....am 23 years Old.....and i Really Really Want to play this Game :D

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

I think it's reviewed for the age group that will actually buy it.

 

Duh.

Jonwh18
Jonwh18

Gamespot's reviews are terrible anymore. Fable the Journey gets an 8 and now this? Shaking my head..... 

Setho10
Setho10

I always thought this augmented reality stuff was cool and the Move is a great way to experience it without the innacuracies inherent with just a Playstation Eye or Kinect. Not exactly something for adults, but I could see kids loving this if it works as well as Steve claims it does. My undestanding is that this tech could be used for other books as well and I hope that it is. Definitely a cool thing for kids and something that can't be done on Wii or as well on Kinect.

FallenOneX
FallenOneX

1st comment, looks like I get to be the a-hole......

I wonder how many people are going to try and argue that this is a great game, even though they spent the last 5 years bashing Nintendo and the Wii because you had to "flail your arms around just to play a game".

 

Anyways, I'm surprised it got such a good score, most previews weren't very positive.

eddieham13
eddieham13

 @RIIIIKU 19 and I would get it If I had move. I love Harry Potter haha

don_saulari
don_saulari

 @Jonwh18 OMG Journey is the greatest game EVER D:, its all about the perfection of whats the game is trying to give you or what the producers are trying to sell you, to buy it or not depends on each gamers taste !!

Devils-DIVISION
Devils-DIVISION

 @FallenOneX To be fair most games that venture down this path, tend to be a flop and fail miserably at what the devs were aiming to achieve (if there ever was a goal outside of profit). This, on the other hand, when looked at objectively, seems to have succeeded fairly well. Now of course, I'm not gonna buy or play this game, I hate this stuff. But hey - pew pewm!

FallenOneX
FallenOneX

 @Devils-DIVISION True, but do you remember how pissed of most gaming sites were when Sony made this a big part of their E3 presentation? So far, GS's score of "8" proves that "Foot-in-Mouth" disease might be real!

Wonderbook: Book of Spells More Info

  • Released
    • PlayStation 3
    Book of Spells is a single-player virtual reading/entertainment experience exclusive to the PlayStation 3 and the first title for Wonderbook.
    7.2
    Average User RatingOut of 31 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Wonderbook: Book of Spells
    Developed by:
    SCEE London Studio
    Published by:
    SCE Australia, SCEI, SCEE, SCEA
    Genres:
    Miscellaneous
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    All Platforms
    Alcohol Reference, Crude Humor, Fantasy Violence