One of the most intriguing titles I saw at Gamescom this year was Wonderbook: Book of Spells but unfortunately our local PlayStation representatives at the time hadn’t booked us any time with this experience and so I’ve been left wondering whether it was a gimmick or a breakthrough in gaming ever since… but now I know – and you are about to find out.
Upon receiving our review copy the first thing I noticed was how well made the book itself is, it feels top quality and if you can keep the pets away from it there is no reason this book won’t last forever. Which is an important aspect of this title as the book itself isn’t only for Book of Spells but is rather a brand new peripheral that will hopefully be used for hundreds of books moving forward.
But the big deal with this first book is that it has been written by J.K Rowling, the genius behind the Harry Potter series, and is set in the world of Hogwarts with the premise being that you have found a long lost textbook written by Miranda Goshawk.
Miranda has written 5 chapters of spells for you to read the history of, learn how to cast and then practice in a protected setting.
But before we get into that, how does it actually work?
First up you will need a PlayStation Eye and PlayStation Move controller for your PlayStation 3, if you don’t yet have those they are being sold in a very well priced bundle as well so don’t panic.
You sit on the floor in front of your TV with the PlayStation Eye pointing down to the floor and place your Wonderbook within it’s eye line. The setup process is simple and once you’ve gone through the calibration menu you will start seeing the book come to life on screen, with the neat touch of you being on screen as well which makes it all that more immersive. The cover is changed from the weird blue montage to a wondrous spell book and then you will physically open the book and each page on screen is covered with mystical beings and scribbles.
You then take your wand, PlayStation Move controller, and pull out segments of the page that will then float in front of you to give you the story. The augmented reality graphics are really quite entertaining and well done, especially the parts where you are made to interact with the book by wiping away leaves and other assorted things with your hands. It’s a very immersive experience which I haven’t experienced before.
So far so good, the book is high quality, well priced and the experience is very well rendered so what about that selling point of the story being written by J.K Rowling?
Well unfortunately that is where things start going a little bit pear shaped. Now I should state right here that I’m a massive J.K Rowling fan. I’ve read all the books, some twice and have seen every single movie on day one of release. I absolutely love the world of Hogwarts and while I may be a muggle I still dream of having magical powers.
The book is set in 5 chapters which each chapter having 2 parts. Each part will generally teach you 2 spells and give you 2 chances to try it out and then at the very end you can use all 4 spells in an interactive test of sorts.
The spells are all awesome and the motion control is excellent with the game picking up exactly what I was doing 90% of the time. But there is no depth, it is exactly what it prescribed itself to be and that is a textbook.
I was truly hoping that by the end of the book I’d have an on rails experience of being a powerful wizard but unfortunately it never progressed that far. There is no story of any substance to Wonderbook and to me that is the only real downfall.
The small substance that was included is the part my girls really enjoyed, these were the interactive stage shows where short little stories were played out in front of you and you were then given the chance to interact with them either by choosing the right words or telling the characters to do something while the story continued.
Not to say it wasn’t all fun though, both my daughters loved making the spells and flicking the wand around and if you have some young wizards in your house I would definitely say this is something you may want to look at for Christmas, especially as the book will hopefully be used for more and more interactive stories moving forward.