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Review: Wonderbook: Book of Spells

By Damian Seeto, Wed 28 Nov 2012
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Ever since the Harry Potter franchise ended its long series of books and famous movies, everyone was wondering to themselves what the next project was for J.K. Rowling.

As for many Harry Potter fans, they were sad to see their favourite franchise end with no more movies or books planned for the future.

Fans can breathe somewhat a sigh of relief because J.K. Rowling has written some new material for the release of Wonderbook: Book of Spells released exclusively for the PS3.

Before I begin talking about the game itself, it has to be noted that you will need a PlayStation Move controller and PlayStation Eye camera in order to “play” this video game.

The game will not work unless you own both of these peripherals. Although some copies of the game are bundled with the PlayStation Move and camera which is helpful for parents wanting to purchase potential Christmas presents for their kids.

Wonderbook is best described as an interactive storybook/tutorial teaching muggles (real people) the ways of becoming a wizard or witch. If you are a huge Harry Potter fan and always fanaticised about becoming a wizard/witch casting your own spells and waving a wand, then Wonderbook is the platform that allows you to somewhat make this dream come true.

Wonderbook itself is a spell book which you can open up and interact with using your PlayStation Move controller. My only minor gripe about the game is setting everything up because Wonderbook is heavily aimed for kids to play.

This is because you need to sit down on the floor for the camera to recognize the book. You will need to adjust your camera accordingly to do this plus you need to play in a room that is brightly lit.

I have to admit this is the first time I had to sit on the floor like a school kind in many years and it felt awkward doing so.

Nevertheless, after several minutes of finding a good position to sit and calibrating everything, Wonderbook is a unique experience that is unlike any other “augmented reality” game I’ve played in recent years.

The game starts off as if you found a secret spell book that has been hidden in the restricted area of the “Hogwarts Library”. Essentially, what gamers have in their hands is a long-lost book that will teach them the ways of learning many spells and becoming a powerful wizard and/or witch.

Wonderbook is set into five chapters each containing two parts. The first part of each chapter is where you will learn how to execute a new spell(s).

The narrator (who has a string Irish accent) will guide you through the pages of the book that will teach you the basics to learn each spell, plus some there are some anecdotal stories that you can view that teaches you the “history” of how each spell was made.

The anecdotal stories are interesting to view and remind me of the story books I used to read when I was at primary school.

The stories have many interactive moments where gamers can choose the missing words that should be put in the correct place. I remember reading about the history of the levitation spell and the right answer was that the man lifted up a tree.

I chose the option of him lifting up an ugly troll instead. Elements like will help kids learn their comprehension skills which may be a good thing to know if you’re a parent.

Each chapter in the book contains 4-to-5 new spells you can learn plus a ton of activities you can do to practice these spells.

First you will have to learn how to pronounce the spell by speaking to the camera. It’s quite funny because the game only records the volume of speech that come sout of your mouth and not the actual way you pronounce words.

If the game tells you to say “Wingardium Leviosa” you can shout something else if you wish to do so...Anyway, Harry Potter fans will be happy to know all of the spells in the game are spells that have featured in the actual books/films.

The spells you can conjure up include levitation, fire, water, shrink, grow and many more. As aforementioned, you can read about the history for each spell or you can read on ahead and practice the spell yourself.

Each spell has different hand motions you have to do in order to execute it. Most of them involve you moving the PlayStation Move controller in a specific way while holding down the move button.

For example, the fire spell is in a “Z” motion and all you have to do is be like Zorro and draw a “Z” to make you wand cast fire. Once you have done that, you are then ready to tackle the activities.

The activities play like little mini-games and most of them involve you just flicking your wand in a specific motion. One of my favourite tasks in the entire game was to enlarge a group of hedgehogs so they could fight off the evil gnomes from the garden.

Another favourite of mine was using the water spell and making the book all wet. The end of each chapter is the final test that allows you to make use of all the spells you just learnt during the chapter.

They kind of serve as the “boss levels” for this game as you will have to use the spells to either defeat a huge menacing boss or escape from a precarious situation. One of the earlier tests was to kill a giant scorpion while trying to escape the pyramid while it was filling up with sand.

Upon finishing each and every chapter, you are greeted with a poem. There are other unlockables you can earn as well that will allow you to playthrough extra content and earn yourself even more poems to read.

Each chapter will take you around 30 – 45 minutes to complete so there’s a lot of content to enjoy here in Wonderbook.

Wonderbook is an interesting piece of software, although I would not recommend it to someone who is not a Harry Potter fan.

Not to mention that the “game” is quite wordy so young kids who aren’t too keen on reading are unlikely to have much sfun while playing Wonderbook.

Nevertheless if you have kids that love Harry Potter and English is their favourite subject at school, Wonderbook is the perfect gift to give to them this Christmas.

Graphics: 7.5Gameplay: 8.0Sound: 8.0Lasting appeal: 7.5

Overall: 8.0

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