Lasting First Impressions of Wonderbook: Book of Spells
Developed by London Studio (Sony Computer Entertainment)
» I just spend over an hour sitting on the floor in front of my TV learning how to cast the same spells that Harry Potter and his pals learn in their time in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Oh, and I was completely engrossed in this interactive storybook aimed at children 10 and up. For the last hour, I was magically transported into the library at Hogwarts and given my very own wand in which to cast and practice a number of spells only found in the world of Harry Potter. This magic brought to life with a new AR book called Wonderbook, available exclusively for PlayStation 3, and the accompanying software, Book of Spells.
The Wonderbook is, as mentioned above, a rather simple but sturdy book with nothing but Augmented Reality images on each of the 12 pages. The quality of the book reminds me of the cardboard books made for young children. The software on the PS3, with the PlayStation Eye camera interprets each page and makes the book come to life on the screen right in your living room. In this case, it is the Book of Spells, a book found in the restricted section of the Hogwarts school library. Wonderbook was first announced by Sony at the press conference at E3 this year and, while it was clear this would be geared towards the younger crowd, I was still intrigued by what they showed. This first book in the Wonderbook series is written by J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series which means that all the stories found within are officially sanctified as true Harry Potter wizarding lore. Children will love learning all the spells they’ve grown up reading about or watching in the movies. Spells like Alohomora, Wingardium Leviosa, and Aguamenti. 20 spells in all will be taught and used in this interactive storybook.
After a brief introduction to how to use the PlayStation Move wand controller, which is the only controller needed, I was teleported to Hogwarts and the simple book on the floor in front of me transformed on-screen into the Book of Spells. Not only that, but the PlayStation Move Wand transformed into an actual Harry Potter wand right in my hand on the screen. It is actually quite an immersive experience since all your time is spent watching the book and yourself on the screen so you never really see the plain book in front of you or the controller in your hand. The experience actually seems fantastically real for the time you’re playing the game.
The twelve available pages of the book may not seem like this virtual story could last very long but I was pleased to find out that, in Book of Spells, the 12 pages were only half of a single chapter in the story. Once one half-chapter is complete, closing the book will allow the player to choose another chapter to play. The book is full of silly paper puppet stories explaining the origins of each spell, followed by showing you how to cast the spell and, finally, using the spell in a room in Hogwarts. All of this shown as if it’s all happening in your own room coming alive right off the book.
Each chapter teaches 4 different spells followed by a test that will require the use of all the spells learned in that chapter in unique and fun ways. Wonderbook and Book of Spells is an amazing new take on children’s storybooks and one that any fan of Harry Potter will get some enjoyment from. I was concerned that the story wouldn’t be very long when I first learned of Wonderbook and the fact that it only had 12 pages, but I was pleasantly surprised at the depth and quantity of available activities here. I challenge anyone to sit down with Book of Spells and not be completely intrigued by the technology and the responsiveness of this software. This is an immersive and fun experience and Wonderbook with Book of Spells would make any child thrilled to get into a good book. This may not be a title that an adult will find themselves eager to come back to but it will certainly make the young fan of Harry Potter very happy indeed. I look forward to what Wonderbook will bring us next.
London Studio, I gave you an hour and I am IMPRESSED.