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November 18, 2012
Wonderbook: Book of Spells - PS3 Review
Release Distributer Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
15/11/2012SonySonySCE London Studio1None
Media HDD Install Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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That's the physical "Wonderbook".
Is it a book? Is it a game? Is it a spell manual? After playing this game for several hours now I'm not really sure I can say which one of those is true - it's a blend of all three really as Wonderbook: Book of Spells is an interactive story book set in the Harry Potter universe - and yes, even J.K. Rowling has had an input into this title. That's certain to gain interest from millions of fans worldwide...

The premise of Book of Spells is pretty simple... Written by Miranda Goshawk over two hundred years ago, Book of Spells can be found in the Restricted Section of the Hogwarts library. It is an advanced textbook for students, which will assist them on their journey to becoming an accomplished witch or wizard.

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The virtual world appears on your TV screen.
Using the PlayStation Eye to track a physical book (which you place on the floor in front of the Playstation Eye camera), and PlayStation Move controller as the wand to cast spells and move objects, the Wonderbook operates like Sony's Eyepet games in that virtual objects are viewed on the TV screen and you can interact with them. For Book of Spells J.K. Rowling has written a conundrum that leads you through the experience, providing insight into the values a witch or wizard has to learn, and inviting you to journey through the book to unlock new content, rewarding successful students along the way.

Split up into six Chapters, each of which has two parts, this is a rather slow look at how to form the spells with the correct wand gesture, with some segments about how each spell was originally created shown in puppet form. Often amusing, and quite light-hearted these segments are pretty entertaining, but I kept going back to the thought that this was a very slow game. "It's a book, not a game" I kept having to remind myself. If you know your Wingardium Leviosa to your Incendio you should get a kick out of this. Once you've learnt your spells you will head into challenges which play much like most other Playstation Move styled mini-games before being awarded points for your house, and moving onto the next segment of the book. It's not really until the last chapter though that you'll find more "gameplay" to use all those spells in a meaningful situation. It's too little if you're after more of a game.

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Book of Spells is written by J.K. Rowling.
As we've experienced in other titles the Playstation Move controller works very well indeed with accurate movement and tracking and while there is still a little bit of a disconnect between having physical objects, and interacting with those on-screen we're not likely to see any better application then this. Be it the mini-games, activiating parts of the puppet performances, selecting objects, or lifting or moving bits of text from the pages almost everything works exactly as one would expect.

That's not to say there weren't some technical issues with this game. At times the narrator asks you to shout out the name of a spell, however upon doing that it wouldn't register, the narrator would tell you to shout it out again, but without doing that it would then recognise that you'd called out the spell earlier. A bit of a timing issue there. There were also moments when the graphics, and primairly the edge of the book on-screen, would glitch ever so slightly - but that was primarily due to playing the title under artificial light (Eg at night time with a crappy light on in the room) - this was not evident when we played the game/book with natural light during the day.

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Book of Spells is set in the Harry Potter universe.
Wonderbook: Book of Spells will be released in two flavours at retail. The first will be the game/book by itself for $AU49.95 - and this will mean you already have the PlayStation Eye and PlayStation Move controller at home. A more complete bundle, for $99.95, will include the game/book, the camera and controller. Is this great value? Well, at this stage, for this single book, probably not but with the promise of several more books in future (including the very nice looking Walking with Dinosaurs in future) we see it as being a great long-term proposition. If you don't have the camera or Move controller as yet you're also opening up to a wide selection of other Move games on the PS3 as well.

Visually Wonderbook: Book of Spells won't win any awards, but like many Augmented Reality styled programs the screen overlays an image of you sitting in your lounge room with computer generated images. There isn't any fast paced movements, action packed scenes or dazzling visual effects here, but the visuals, animation and movement of the story book are solid enough for a game of this ilk.

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Book of Spells shows the movement required.
Sonically Wonderbook: Book of Spells performs as expected with solid narration of the book, some goof effects and nice music to set the tone. There's nothing here to make your jaw drop, but you're not likely to be disappointed either.

While I never fell in love with Wonderbook: Book of Spells (that is primarily due to my disinterest in the Harry Potter universe more then a technical or gameplay reason) my wife, and several others that love Harry Potter, enjoyed this title more then I did - I will certainly be more keen to check out Moonbot Studios' Diggs: Nightcrawler book, and certainly the one based on BBC's Walking with Dinosaurs. A solid start, but one I can only recommend to Harry Potter fans (and even then probably those under 10 years of age).

Review By: Dave Warner

GRAPHICSCertainly not pushing the PS3 to it's limits, Wonderbook still looks good
SOUNDNarration is adequate, as are the effects and music. Nothing award winning though.
GAMEPLAYI understand this is a "book" and not a "Move Game", but learning the spells is a bit pointless without more gameplay. Still, whats here will entertain younger Harry Potter fans.
VALUEIt's $49.95 for the book alone, but it's not overly long and we're not sure if there's much replayability after the first run through.
OVERALLWonderbook: Book of Spells isn't a game, it's an interacive book. Audio visuals are decent, and the fun factor is there for young Harry Potter fans.

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