Wonderbook is the new augmented reality game from Sony, it takes the PlayStation Eye and the PlayStation Move and gives children the opportunity to place themselves in a story, while also encouraging them to read and learn at the same time. It's a brilliant idea and given that it has the backing of big names such as J.K Rowling, BBC and Disney, it's sure to make a big mark this Xmas.
The first book/game in the series comes from Harry Potter creator J.K Rowling and is known as Book of Spells. This title basically gives your children the opportunity to become a student of Hogwarts, allowing them to learn and cast spells, while also learning about the history of this magic along the way. It's a well presented tale and one which will captive all who play, how do I know this? Because my children have been playing it for the past month and they love it.
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.
The great thing about Book of Spells is how accessible and simple to use it is. When you first open the book a narrator appears and asks you 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 same narrator will stay with the player throughout the book, helping your children with simple guidance if they are stuck and also giving them helpful hints along the way.
As you'd expect, the book is split into various chapters and like all good stories, your experience will begin from chapter one. To ease children in, the book will slowly explain how to navigate your way around, which includes pulling words out of the page using the wand and also being able to dispel these should you want to move on. Learning spells is a large part of the experience and there are two parts to this. The first consists of pulling the incantation from the page and shouting it back correctly at the camera, then once the child has mastered this, they'll go on to mimic the wand movements in order to cast the spell.
Once your child has activated the spell, they'll then be able to levitate objects; shoot water from the tip of the wand; shrink and enlarge things and will even be able to create fire, much to the dismay of Hogwarts librarian.
Testing out the spells is perhaps one of the most fun parts about Book of Spells. Once children learn a spell, the book will open up, placing them right in the middle of a room within Hogwarts, here they'll be given the option to test out the spell for real. This part of the game is fantastic and sees them using spells such as Lumos to fight off creatures or Incendio to set things on fire, which always seems to bring a smile to their faces.
Once they get to the end of the chapter, children will then be given a test, placing them in a large scenario in which they must use the spells learned so far in order to pass the test. This can be quite tricky given that they have to remember everything which has happened before, however the game does offer helpful hints and on screen prompts as a reminder. In addition, any spells learned and tests passed will gain the player house points and a certificate as well as access to a conundrum, giving the children a sense of accomplishment along the way.
In addition to using spells, throughout the game children will also be learning more than perhaps they even realise. This is due to each spell having its own backstory, which will no doubt appeal to all the big Harry Potter fans out there. These stories go into great detail about the origin of the spells and are presented in many ways. Some stories are just read to the players accompanied with pictures, while others take the form of an interactive play within a pop up on theatre, giving the children various scenarios to choose from; picking the wrong option often results is hilarious consequences. Like most of the book, this is a great way to encourage children to read.
One of the most impressive things about Book of Spells is the presentation. When the book first appears on the screen it's a very impressive sight, even more so when interactive stories appear. My children were particularly excited about watching the pop up theatre with it's cardboard cutout style characters and pullout tabs. It's almost like a popup book coming to life on your TV. It's not just the children who've been excited about Book of Spells though, as I've shown many other parents the game in motion already and even they seemed very impressed to see this story coming to life in front of their eyes.
Book of Spells is obviously only the beginning for Wonderbook and what a way to start. If you're going to get your game on the map then asking J.K Rowling to kick things off seems like a pretty smart move. It seems to me that this story has captured everything which is good about Harry Potter and to be honest it's also captured my children's imagination too.
Given that later down the line we'll also see books based on Walking with Dinosaurs as well as other BBC and Disney series, I can't really see Wonderbook gathering dust anytime soon.
Words by Joe Anderson.
(Version Tested: PS3)
Encourages children to read
Fun for all the family
Looks wonderful in places
Some of the stories can drag on a little
Can take a little while for children to learn the ropes (depending on age)