The Average Gamer

Wonderbook: Book of Spells Review (PS Move)

Sony’s Book of Spells is finally out. Written by JK Rowling, Book of Spells is the first game for the Wonderbook, which combines with the PS Move to bring kids and adults into the world of Harry Potter. I sat down in front of the TV with my nephew Flynn to test it out.

After a straight forward calibration process, with a now very cooperative and excited 7 year old, it was down to business with the Book of Spells. Flynn spent quite a while deciding his wand and house as he wanted to pick the best one. Then once he’d opened the book for the very first time he was captivated.

Throughout the storytelling and numerous and verbose instructions for casting spells, Flynn listened attentively as he sat cross legged in front of the TV.

His face was full of puzzlement at first as the Book of Spells started to reveal its secrets through a mixture of verbal instructions and for the levitation spell and interactive puppet show. Before long he was hurling jars of eyeballs around the screen with his freshly memorised levitation spell. He had a very cheeky smile on his face after one of the eyeballs fired off, on screen, towards his dad who was sitting on the sofa behind him.

At one point he was told off by the narrator for throwing a frog around too much. To be honest, I did the same when I played. Sorry Mr Frog, levitating you was too much fun.

For at least 30 minutes Flynn remained silent, attentive and relatively still. Given that he’s an inexhaustible ball of energy and carnage, that fact Book of Spells just kept him in one place for so long was a major achievement.

However, there were a few niggles with the whole experience. Flynn needed a bit of help cleaning the book (as instructed by the game) as he kept moving it around on the floor. This confused the PlayStation Eye and broke whole spell book illusion as the camera went back to showing the physical book rather than the cool looking spell book. He also knocked the book a few times while playing leading to a few realignments to keep the PS Eye happy. Basically, don’t move or touch the book unless you’re turning a page.

The game also chucks quite a lot of instructions at you alongside with the general wizardry plot. You choose your spell by holding the Move controller’s PS button and drawing a letter on the screen. Then cast the spell with the T button. The problem was that switching between the PS and T button caught Flynn out a few times as he pressed the wrong button.

The game did try to help him out when he would miscast a spell, but sometimes the narrator’s instructions were about three of four steps behind what he was actually doing wrong. This just made everything even more confusing and frustrating for him.

Eventually he got bored with the game and wanted to play something else so I asked him what he thought of Book of Spells. He said:

“Good, I like it. You get your own wand. It was hard choosing houses. I liked the spells and the puppet show. Lifting the plants was hard and frustrating. Tried to get them in [the plant pots] but it wouldn’t work.”

Wonderbook with Book of Spells is a great use of AR technology. It’s perfect for bookish children and even managed to keep my rowdy, rugby-loving nephew quiet for a time. Let’s hope the next releases live up to this standard.

Wonderbook: Book of Spells is out now on PlayStation 3.

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