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Wonderbook: Book of Spells preview

Sony's Wonderbook has certainly had its ups and downs already and that's even before its release. The augmented-reality-based children's game/book was first shown off at E3, although many thought the publisher spent far too long trying to sell it to gamers in what turned out to be a rather unconvincing showing. Then a few months later during Sony's Gamescom conference, all of a sudden thanks in part to the announcement of support from BBC and series such as Walking with Dinosaurs, as well as the addition of mega entertainers Disney, Wonderbook was once again was looking like an interesting prospect.

Before we move on, I've got a little confession to make. Two of my children have played Wonderbook in the past. As part of a home-game testing initiative, they both played it a month before it was officially announced at E3. Being a journalist I was obviously keen to say something, but due to NDA's etc, I had to bite my lip. I knew what was coming though, and although details were not divulged, I had guessed by watching my children play that the first game being released for Wonderbook was in fact related in some way to Harry Potter.

Now that the Wonderbook and Book of Spells has arrived in our household on a more permanent basis, me and my family have more of a chance to test it out. But for those who don't know much about it, let me explain. Wonderbook itself is a blue book which essentially hosts Augmented Reality cards on each page. To play you'll require the book, a PlayStation Eye camera and a PlayStation Move controller. Setting the game up is simple enough as all you need to do is place the book on the floor in view of the camera and calibrate your Move controller by following the on-screen instructions; then it's time to begin.

It's essential to say from the beginning that Wonderbook is aimed at children and families, therefore if you're looking for a Call of Duty type experience then you should look elsewhere.

As a parent its always difficult to balance fun and education, with the former usually taking precedence when the kids are at home. What Sony have done with Wonderbook is try to combine the two, which to me is a fantastic idea. Book of Spells is a perfect example of how this works. The game is a mixture of play and education and although it's not always easy to keep a child's attention, Wonderbook does a good job. 

When you first open the book you'll be asked to choose a House and a Wand, once this is done, the wand will then take the place of your PlayStation Move on the screen and will remain your tool of choice throughout the entire experience. The wand is then used to pull words out of the screen as your children go on to learn spells, such as Incendio, Leviosa and Expelliarmus. Obviously the children love learning these incantations, shouting them back at the screen before going on to mimic the wand movements in order to cast the spell. Once activated they'll then be able to levitate objects, shoot water from the tip of the wand and more depending on what they have cast. Any spells learnt will gain the player house points and at the end of the chapter they'll also get the chance to take a test based on every piece of knowledge gained to that point, giving them a chance to cast spells in a variety of situations.

The educational part comes into play throughout the book as each spell has its own back story. Sometimes this will just be read out to the children, whilst at other times the story will take the form of a play based in a pop up theatre. During this scenario the children are given choices as to how the story progresses and must choose the correct one by pulling the on-screen tab with their wand. To me this is fantastic as the children love to take part in these stories. Given that one of my children is just three-years old, I was slightly worried that he would tire of watching the screen; however some of the back stories in the pop-up theatre are so captivating that he just sat there, eyes glued to the screen.

One of the things that would worry most people about Wonderbook is how simple it is to use, but I have to say that once the kids get past that initial learning curve, it's really easy. My daughter did struggle at first when it came to remembering the buttons and how to pull words from the pages of the book, however it didn't take her long to pick it up and she seems pretty confident with the controls now, although it does help that there are very clear instructions on each page.

Based on our limited time with Wonderbook, so far I can see this being a very popular game in our household. The children love casting spells and love that it seems to come to life on the screen, placing them inside the story with some fantastic presentation. Most importantly, it seems to work well with no hiccups of any sort to report.

We'll have a full review closer to release, but at the moment, I can say that it's looking very promising.

Wonderbook is released this November. You can pre-order your copy here (stand alone) and here (bundle).

Edited On 15 Oct, 2012

( 12 )
Dead's avatar
Dead 4 years ago
This looks good for kids, I think augmented reality has some interesting possibilities now with all handhelds and consoles having cameras inbuilt or available.
Joe2120's avatar
It works well. You like our video?
Joe2120 4 years ago
Dead's avatar
Yes, looks good for kids, and the AR seems well implemented.
Dead 4 years ago
scourge's avatar
scourge 4 years ago
My little boy would love this, too bad i don't own a PS3 yet. may have to look in to getting one for xmas.
Loli-Nox-Tan's avatar
Loli-Nox-Tan 4 years ago
I won't lie when I saw this at E3 I thought it stole the show not because it looked good but because it just plain didn't work TrolLoLol. All joking aside I still might get this just so I can play it with my niece when I'm babysitting.
Beazi's avatar
Beazi 4 years ago
Do you have to have the Move controller to play it?
Joe2120's avatar
Yes, it's essential for this game. Works well tho.
Joe2120 4 years ago
Beazi's avatar
Beazi 4 years ago
Just worked it out now ;) Looked at the Bundle, thought originally it was a PS3 with the bundle lol
s.c.g's avatar
s.c.g 4 years ago
A nice idea for kids but ultimately nothing amazing.
rjc's avatar
rjc 4 years ago
Will keep the kids happy. :P
clikR's avatar
clikR 4 years ago
AR is looking like its getting more advanced everytime something new is released, surely it cant be too long til something like this is released for a more adult themed game no....? now if only I hadnt got rid of my move....likely another starter pack version though..
0000000000's avatar
0000000000 4 years ago
my kids are going to love this looks fun for me to :P

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