Wonderbook is the perfect interactive companion for Harry Potter fans
It is the ultimate sort of collaborative effort — one that involves the world’s most popular author of children’s books and an entertainment company that transcends mediums. Wonderbook: Book Of Spells is a game for the Sony Playstation 3, but it is also an augmented reality book that is a direct product of the creative partnership between Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and Sony’s London Studios as part of ‘Pottermore’ — a brand of projects that focusses on creating new ways to experience Harry Potter fiction, the main product of which is the www.pottermore.com/. Wonderbook is the first of such projects not directly related to the site (although you will be able to link it to an existing Pottermore account), and it’s a fantastic effort.
Wonderbook is a combination of four elements: a 12-page book that’s full of cryptic symbols (AR codes that magically transform into something even more magical on screen), the game Blu-ray disc, a Playstation Move controller (your trusty wand, so to speak) and the Playstation Eye camera. All of these elements combine to give you an experience that is fundamentally part-book, part-game, but throw Harry Potter into the equation and it’s the best kind of educational tool — just not from a traditional point of view.
After a quick calibration of the camera and Playstation Move controller, you can get started on a career of Wizarding (or Witching, as the case may be). Once you’ve picked your Hogwarts house (Gryffindor or Hufflepuff?) and wand (Rubeus Hagrid’s “rather bendy” wand is a good start), you can explore the contents of the Book Of Spells. In the game, the dusty old book (transformed by augmented reality magic) that now lies on your living room floor has supposedly been written by Miranda Goshawk, who’s got several stories to tell — from funny ones behind the invention and discovery of spells to general Potter history. She leaves you “conundrums” at the end of each chapter as well, with your ultimate goal being piecing these together for a reveal that is all very Harry Potter. The core focus, however, does remain on learning charms using wand gestures. Once you’ve learnt a charm, you’ll be taught its practical applications in-game — experimenting at first, and then solving puzzles that require use of specific charms. You’re tested at the end of each chapter and are awarded house points based on your performance — there are 20-odd charms to learn, and they all come with their own wacky special effects and appropriately designed environmental and magical puzzles.
For the first time in Move’s history, all the elements seem to come together in a seamless sort of way — the augmented reality engine is well implemented, leveraging the Playstation Eye camera as well as codes on the Wonderbook, while the PS Move controller is the perfect virtual wand. There’s no doubt that the game’s incredible production values contribute to the overall experience (we can’t have a Harry Potter spinoff feeling cheap, can we?). Wonderbook excels as a narrative device as well, featuring top-quality voice acting, great visuals that find the sweet spot in Harry Potter aesthetics, superb animation and physics that not only tell great stories, but greatly complement your amazing or less-than-amazing spellcasting ability. The writing is largely humourous and occasionally silly — it wouldn’t be out of place in a Harry Potter novel. If you’re a fan of the series in any form, Wonderbook is the perfect interactive companion, and it’s the closest us muggles can come to being witches and wizards.