Wonderbook: Book of Spells Review

Motion controls, I have a love and hate relationship with you. I’m in my thirties now, so I mostly want to sit down and not exert my over-the-hill limbs, but you persist with the arm flailing mini-game compilations that require me to sweat. To actually sweat! When I’m not calibrating you, I’m trying to rope others in to help me play multiplayer. You’ve tested my patience one too many times…but wait, what’s this? Wonderbook you say? A game that my children will ask for at bedtime, you say? No sweating, and I can sit down? Well, I guess we’d better pay attention, then.

So, if you’ll forgive the moderately self-indulgent paragraph above, what I was trying to get across is that Wonderbook, at its core, is for the whole family, and you should be interested in it, because it’s fun!

Once calibrated, Wonderbook won’t nag you repeatedly on the subject. It has a descriptive, hand-holding tutorial, and that’s it, then you are a young wizard at Hogwarts who has found a book that holds magical secrets, and the adventure begins. But not, it would seem, before being disappointed that my children picked a different house to me. Oh, I’d hoped that in my first playthrough, to “test” the game’s suitability for my specifically aged children, that they’d both pick the same house as me. We’re family after all. But no, they didn’t.

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Onwards though, Book of Spells starts to teach the nuances of being a young wizard, whilst simultaneously showing off how great PlayStation Move can be. I hate to be that guy, but in the case of Wonderbook, Move just works. As more and more spells are revealed to the player, sorry, wizard, of varying levels of complexity and importance, the story continues to play out with unbridled charm and even a friendly level of humour that will bring a smile to children and parents alike. Sorry, Wizards and Wizards alike, bare with me.

The awe on the faces of young wizards as they tilt the book towards the camera, causing the water (that you just sprayed all over the book, thanks to learning a new spell) to pour away onto the floor is absolutely wonderful. To us, it’s just clever use of augmented reality, to a young wizard, it’s Harry Potter come to life, and what could be cooler?

Nobody dies in Wonderbook, no guns are fired (unless you consider a wand as some form of gun, in which case you’re unstable and should speak to someone) and everything is done with a fondness and care that ensures the wizard knows that Pottermore are involved at the base level.

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The book itself is of sturdy stock, and resistant to almost all potential child-based mishaps and, upon first glance, is surprisingly short. However, once you’ve finished a chapter, you close the book, select a new chapter and start at the first page again. There are multiple digitised codes on each page, presumably for each chapter to read, and maybe even for future software to make use of. Each chapter is filled with stories to read, and even sections where the young wizard gets involved by adding to the story, then you’ll get to learn how to  make your wand do each spell, before practicing the spell on a specific task.

Although the Move wand and PlayStation Eye are working in unison, the star of the show is most definitely the software. Augmented reality isn’t a new thing, but I don’t recall seeing a better execution than with Book of Spells. Zero frustration is vital to a motion controlled video game, and that’s what we have here.

But let’s not beat around the bush here, we’re not looking at a game of the year contender in Wonderbook: Book of Spells. However, for adults looking for an amusing way to engage their young children away from the more mature games they gravitate towards, this is a beautiful way to maintain their innocence whilst bringing them into the world of video games.

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VERDICT: Complaints that Sony haven’t supported Move are understandable, but focussing on something like Wonderbook just before the holiday season is smart, though with big hitters like Skylanders to go up against, it’s hard to predict if it’ll find enough of a market to ensure development for this type of augmented reality continues, but if it doesn’t, it’ll be a great shame, because this is something a bit different.

Don’t go into Book of Spells expecting a hardcore video game that you might usually play, instead, be open-minded and enjoy some casual fun with your family. Expecto-Patronum! (Again, I’m in my thirties).

8EXCELLENT. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.

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