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Book of Spells is the first game for the new PlayStation 3 peripheral WonderBook. The game is set in the same universe as J.K Rowling's series of Harry Potter books, as the player becomes a student at the Hogwarts School and is taught all the famous spells from the books such as Lumos, Incendio and Expecto Patronum. This is not a Harry Potter game (it is actually set some 200 years before the books), and none of the central characters such as Harry appear, but it definitely feels authentic to the Harry Potter world and the school of Hogwarts is beautifully recreated.
The gameplay of Book of Spells is quite unique, the player can see themselves and their book on their TV screen at all times and the images that appear on the book come to life to teach the player the various spells. These are cast by performing simple gestures using the PlayStation Move controller. It is not a complicated game and all the gestures are easy to perform, no one should have any problems sitting down to play this and finding themselves stuck or unsure of how to play. There is also a narrator character that is always on hand to guide the player to what they should do next and offer amusing comments.
The gameplay follows fairly repetitive pattern; there are five chapters, each with four spells. The player is presented with a new spell to learn and told of the origins of the spell through small amusing anecdotes, written by J.K Rowling herself, presented in wonderful pop-up theatre visuals on your book. The player is then told the gesture to perform the spell, given the chance to practice it, and then tested by actually using the spell. For example the Wingardium Leviosa spell allows the player to levitate objects, the player is asked to levitate a jar of eyeballs that appears on the book and land it successfully. Once all four spells for that chapter have been learnt the player is then given a test for the entire chapter where they will need to use all the spells they have learnt. These chapter tests are definitely the most interesting and challenging parts of the game, and it's a shame there are only five of them. The tests include activities such as answering riddles from a Sphinx, and trying to retrieve a stolen dragon egg from mischievous pixies.
Unfortunately the game is quite short and it shouldn't take too long to finish, but the appeal of Book of Spells isn't in its longevity but rather the unique experience of playing it. It is wonderful to see the pages of the book come to life such as when a paper dragon begins moving on the page and bursts from it and into 3D flying around the player, then breathing fire onto the book and setting the pages on fire (not literally of course, you will need a water making spell to handle it rather than a fire extinguisher!) It is very different to most other games and while it is a game intended for children it can be enjoyed by the whole family.
Book of Spells comes packaged with the WonderBook book that you require to play, but also be aware you will also need a PlayStation Eye camera and PlayStation Move controller to play this game. There are two bundles you can buy of the game, one that comes with just the game and book, and another that comes with the game and all the necessary peripherals. Both bundles are very reasonably priced and well worth the money as the book, camera and Move controller can all be used with other games as well as this one.
The WonderBook peripheral itself is very well made, it feels very durable and a quality product. Book of Spells has several sections that require you to brush and pat the pages, or picking up and moving the book around, but book is very sturdy and should stand up well to whatever it is put through. The book itself is actually 12 "pages" of augmented reality card patterns that the PlayStation Eye camera can track, the pages are then transformed into the wonderful images you see on your screen. While this technology itself isn't terribly advanced or new, the use of a book to present it makes it far more appealing to use and easy to understand, everybody is familiar with a book and it is very intuitive to use, and the tactile nature of the peripheral is perfect for children.
Book of Spells it the first game to use the WonderBook peripheral but more are due to be released next year, and all games will use the same book you purchase with this game, so you won't have to purchase another with each new game. It is a simple but fun game that children especially should enjoy, it is a fairly short but unique experience and fans of J.K. Rowling's wizarding world will love watching all their favourite spells come to life.