First look: Wonderbook: Book of Spells (PlayStation 3)

We play test the latest AR adventure from Sony

It is sometimes easy to forget that the PlayStation 3 launched over six years ago and continues to be supported by Sony. Any core gamer who wanted a PlayStation likely already has one, creating the dilemma of how to continually grow the user base. An untapped market tends to be the kids segment, as the glut of core games, typically for early adopters, means that the kids market is often underrepresented.

Augmenting the reality

The introduction of the PlayStation Move peripheral in 2010 was Sony’s first serious play into the kids market, as the controller was well adapted for simpler gameplay. The Move is not only a controller, but also comes with the PlayStation Eye camera, which has opened up new possibilities for augmented reality (AR) in video games. AR is not a new concept and has already appeared in numerous shapes and forms in games, though it has mainly been limited to Nintendo’s handhelds and smartphones.

Despite the potential of the technology, actually implementation has often resulted in a bit of eye candy that would add very little to gameplay. Wonderbook: Book of Spells, however, seems to get it right. On a purely technical level, Wonderbook is a benchmark product of what is capable with AR. The game comes with a dedicated book that has the AR codes for the camera to recognise, and every time the player turns a page a new environment comes to life on screen.

A wizard in everyone

The Move controller is also used in an intuitive way, namely to conjure spells. The game is based on the Harry Potter universe and has input by author J. K. Rowling, which adds to overall Wonderbook experience though an added layer of polish. The game’s strengths is that it is an accessible game for children, though for the same reason game’s appeal is limited to that market.

The game is quite short and not too challenging, to the point that the in-game achievements are quick to unclock. While enjoyable in its own right, there is also a level of uncertainty about the future use of the Wonderbook peripheral. Sony has mentioned that there may be future games in the future that make use of the book, but time will tell whether it will be supported or will fall to the wayside like 2007’s The Eye of Judgment.

Pros

- Best implementation of AR so far.

- Good balance between interactivity and storytelling.

- Move controls work well

Cons

- Quite short and easy.

- Game’s appeal is limited.

Bottom Line

Wonderbook: Book of Spells is bound to delight kids of all ages, even older ones if they give it a chance.

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Patrick Budmar

Patrick Budmar

PC World
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