"J.K. Rowling's Attempt at Interactive Storytelling"
Before I dive into this review of Wonderbook: Book of Spells, I want to lay out some facts: Yes, I am a Potter-head. Yes, I left my fan-boyism at the door before criticizing this game. Yes, I considered that this game is intended for a younger audience. Yes, I played it alongside with my younger nephews (both 8 and 12). I gave myself the mindset I needed to review Wonderbook: Book of Spells on a fair level. That being said, let us continue.
Wonderbook: Book of Spells is J.K. Rowling's dive into interactive storytelling… or video gaming, I'm not sure which. By using the included book, the PlayStation Eye (What? You never bought one of those?) picks up on the printed symbols within the pages to make the augmented reality that drives Wonderbook happen. The PlayStation Move (You never bought one of those either?! Don't worry you can buy the Wonderbook Move bundle!) functions as a wand. Let the magic begin, or the lack thereof.
So with Wonderbook immersing you into AR (Augmented Reality), it goes something like this: first you learn a spell, then you perform the spell. At the end of each segment, you will have to take all the spells you've learned and apply them in a challenge. Uh, that's pretty much it. But hey, wait, what did the kids think? Well, yes, there was some form of entertainment to be had by my nephews, and they seemed far more entertained than myself, but since the "game" is so repetitive, there isn't really much to do, and they did eventually wonder if we could just go outside and play instead.
Of course, Wonderbook: Book of Spells is about storytelling and immersing yourself into the Potter-verse, right? Well, yes, but as an adult Potter fan, it's not really enough for me to want to sit down in my living room by myself and play a bunch of bland mini-games, waving my Move controller around like I'm some child wizard. Sorry Wonderbook, you're not going to trick me into looking like a fool this time! However, even kids who are only sort of into the Potter-verse will probably get over the few gimmicks Wonderbook offers fairly quickly. To be honest, even the augmented reality stuff is pretty basic. There isn't anything here that shouts originality or brings AR into a new or better light. For now, it seems like AR is just a continuing gimmick that can't find a real home anywhere, and Wonderbook proves that.
Wonderbook: Book of Spells seems to have been made for children in mind, but it also assumes you know everything that has happened in the storyline of the Harry Potter series. Since my nephews never read more or saw more than the first 2 or 3 books / films, they weren't looking at this as a Harry Potter game, but just some gimmick where the fun ended fast. Wonderbook doesn't even really provide itself as a primer for kids to get into the series. I can see Wonderbook impressing people when you show it to them (but not for longer than ten minutes), or to folk who aren't around AR gaming a lot. Everyone else will just wonder if it's worth dropping this much cash for a PlayStation Eye, a Move, and a game for a 12 year old who may tire of it within a week.
At the end of the day, the picture is not so clear: Wonderbook confuses me. If there are some kids between the ages of 8-12 who have read all the books / seen all the movies and just want to geek out, then maybe Wonderbook: Book of Spells would be a good place for them to do so. Younger children will get bored of it after not so long, however.
The entire time while playing around with Wonderbook: Book of Spells I had a few wishes. I wished that they had made it easy enough for kids to learn and handle, dropping the repetitive, mind-numbing gameplay. I wished they had kept adults / older gamers in mind too. I wished they had given the children gamers some credit. You know, maybe a whole bunch of really intoxicated adults would enjoy Wonderbook... Now that I think of it, I know exactly what to do with this Wonderbook I have in my posession: call up some of my friends, buy some beer, and see how we do at casting / learning spells. I'll update you on how that goes.
GameDynamo's Score for Wonderbook: Book of Spells (PS3)
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Three things describe Rando: Good beer, good food, and video games. On occasion, Rando flies a zeppelin through time seeking power crystals.
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