Wonderbook: Book of Spells (PS3)

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The small audience of media gathered around the Wonderbook: Book of Spells demonstration booth was eager to check out this Wonderbook for ourselves, to run a quick inspection of sorts. Once we had it in our hands, we turned it over and we looked inside, in much the same way as one would inspect the wooden box that magicians routinely cut people in half in.

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It goes without saying that we didn’t find any secret trapdoors, no portals into another world, in fact we didn’t even catch a glimpse of Dobby. Turns out it’s just a plain ol’ book, a book made of paper and cardboard, with no magnets or batteries. Yet when the strange patterns on the book are combined with the PlayStation Move Controller, they allow you to place anything (including any characters and any stories) onto the book itself. You just need this one book and you’ll be able to have any story out of it, and it’s in this way that Wonderbook allows you to access a whole library of content.

If you watched the Sony E3 press conference then you’ll know that the first in the library of content for Wonderbook is Book of Spells. Developer London Studio was given the opportunity to work with J.K. Rowling, the author of the popular Harry Potter series, in a close collaboration to create a spell book that is set within the world of Hogwarts.

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Book of Spells allows you to become the student, with your Move controller becoming your wand and the Wonderbook your spell book. As you learn about the spells, you’ll discover spell descriptions, all of which are new content from Rowling which are guaranteed to give Harry Potter fans something to look forward to.

Throughout Book of Spells you’ll be able to explore the text, and eventually bring this text to life in your livingroom. You’ll also be able to collect magical items, which you can later examine in the collectibles section of the book. One of the most exciting parts about the Book of Spells is that you’ll be able to bring paper illustrations to life. Take caution when discovering student notes throughout the book, however, as these can be a bit like ‘trick or treat’ situations.

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Not only will Book of Spells allow you to bring text to life, but it will also enable you to pull images out of the book and place them in the real world so that you can interact with the Augmented Reality yourself. For example, in the demo a paper dragon came to life on-screen, breathed fire onto the Wonderbook, and promptly set it alight (on-screen of course). Luckily we were able to put out the fire by waving our hands back and forth over the book and then clearing the soot off the book to set things back to normal.

One of the other features of the Wonderbook is that you can just turn a page and use it like you would any other book. And so we got a taste of the fun stories that you’ll be able to discover throughout the book, stories that reveal new information about the spells, all original and new content from Rowling. For example, we learned when the ‘Wingardium Leviosa’ spell was invented through a charming paper theatre, a production that allowed us to rotate the book around to see inside the theatre and really interact with the story itself.

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The demo then moved on to show us how you’ll be able to learn a spell gesture and the incantation to the spell. There are 20 spells in Book of Spells, each one having a unique gesture. We had already discovered the firemaking spell, but now we had the chance to learn the spell gesture to ‘Incendio.’ It’s a simple one to one interaction using the PlayStation Move controller, and then the Move button to cast the gesture – a ‘Z’ for the Incendio spell.

Now that you’ve discovered and learned the spell gesture and incantation, you’ll need to practise. The wizardry world doesn’t like to harm real creatures, so you’ll create paper creatures to practise on. The book creates a world around you, and this paper environment slowly floods with colour. Now you’ll need to make the firemaking spell to eliminate the paper creatures from the practise area, taking care to avoid the objects in the room which can also catch alight. At the end of the practise round you’ll be awarded House Points along with a practise note that includes a wizarding photo. Naturally this photo also has moving images, just like in the world of Harry Potter. The photos can be kept in the collectibles area at the back of the book, along with a record of your House Points, which you can go back and try improving if you like.

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Another example of this discover, learn then practise approach was demonstrated as we learned the Reducio and then Engorgio spells (to reduce and then enlarge a pumpkin). Each chapter of the Book of Spells has four spells, we’d learned the firemaking spell, the Avis spell (which produces birds from the air), the revealing charm (which reveals hidden writing) and the Reducio/Engorgio spells. Now we were faced with a test that requires us to use each of the spells. Each test will be set by a beast of the wizarding world, in this case the Sphinx.

We cast the revealing spell to find our first clue, then the Avis spell to unlock the way to the tomb. Upon discovering a set of scales we used the Engorgio spell to enlarge the scorpion and balance the scales out. At this point the scorpion buried itself into the book, and we had to wipe the sand off the book using our hands. A sandstorm whipped up and we arrived in a new environment, quickly using the firemaking spell to set light to the torches. The scorpions had us pinned in a corner, but luckily we used the Reducio spell to make them smaller and fall through the metal grate in front of us.

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Book of Spells is the first in a series of titles to come out for Wonderbook. Stay tuned to El33tonline as we discover more about this new title from Sony in the coming months.