NYCC: Hands-on Book of Spells

| 16 Oct 2012 17:47

The Wonderbook's first title brings the magic of Harry Potter to life.

My short glimpse of the PS3-exclusive Book of Spells at E3 left some unanswered questions. Since I was only allowed to watch a live demo, I didn't get a great idea of how it worked, how accurate the controls were, and whether it was more game or gimmick. Being a ridiculous Harry Potter fan, I was still intrigued, and I was happy to get a chance to play Book of Spells at New York Comic Con. Not every question has been answered, but I do have a better idea of what it's all about.

The first game for the brand-new Wonderbook peripheral brings the world of Harry Potter to life, transforming the Move controller into a magic wand and giving wannabe witches and wizards a chance to perform their own spells. Using the PlayStation Eye camera and AR technology, the Wonderbook - an accessory actually shaped like a book - comes to life on the television screen, taking an appearance of an old textbook, popping out eyeballs and pumpkins, creating scenes of wizards shooting spells directly at me.

The spells available to me could levitate items or set them on fire, and eventually I moved on to expelliarmus, the disarming spell. Disappointingly, all of the spells had been pre-cast for the purposes of the demo. In the full game, I was told, I'd have to recreate the movements required with my wand exactly to properly cast each spell. That would have been more fun, but I was still entertained by using my wand to flick eyeballs around and make pumpkins explode. My actions were reflected pretty accurately onscreen, and when it came to using expelliarmus on some mischievous wizards, I found that my aim had to be solid (but didn't require perfection).

Flipping the page of the Wonderbook is reflected onscreen, opening up a new lesson and a new spell. Though the peripheral only has a few pages in it, Book of Spells and other games that utilize it won't be limited by the number of physical pages. When they reach the end of the book, gamers can just go back to the beginning and start flipping through them again, and the game will continue onscreen without interruption.

As a Harry Potter fan, I think Book of Spells is really interesting. As a gamer, I'm still not entirely sure what to make of it. Will the spell tutorials and exercises be fun enough to sustain an entire game and encourage future support for the Wonderbook peripheral? We'll find out when Book of Spells is released this holiday season.

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