I'm all for the power of imagination alone, but there's no denying that a few props go a long way towards helping kids act out and enjoy their fantasies. There's a lot of Harry Potter merchandise out there to help kids immerse themselves in Harry Potter's world -- toy wands, capes, notebooks with Gryffindor and Hufflepuff emblems embazoned on the front, even Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans in sweet shops -- but in my opinion, one of the best products out there for Harry Potter fans is Wonderbook's new Book of Spells for the Playstation 3. Thanks to the magic of JK Rowling and the magic of the PS3, the Book of Spells will help young Muggles everywhere learn to cast spells just like Harry, Ron, Hermione and the rest of the magical world. Sony sent us a copy of the Book of Spells to review, and we are spellbound!
Inside the box, you'll find a Book of Spells disc for the PS3 and the PS3 Wpnderbook. When I first saw the Wonderbook, I was honestly disappointed. It looks nothing like a book of spells! The blue tones and geometric patterns make the Wonderbook look more like something out of the world of TRON than the world of Harry Potter.
But wait.... you're still in the Muggle world. Once you pop the disc into your PS3 and turn on your TV, you'll be guided through a very easy setup. Basically all you have to do is make sure the Wonderbook and your Playstation Move controller are easily visible by your Playstation Eye camera. Then take your eyes off that decidedly non-magical-looking Wonderbook and look into your TV screen.....
...and once you look into your TV screen, the Wonderbook is magically transformed into Miranda Goshawk's Book of Spells (one of Harry Potter's Hogwarts textbooks), and the PlayStation Move controller is magically transformed into a magic wand!
Here's a tip: if you can't see your book of spells in your TV very well, try propping it up.
You'll be able to see everything much more clearly.
Now the fun can begin. Players can select their wand as well as which Hogwarts House they want to belong to. They can take a photo of themselves that comes out moving magically just like the photographs in Harry's magical world. It even has that distinctive sepia tone.
As players make their way through the pages of the Book of Spells, they'll learn to perform 20 magical spells, most of which Harry Potter readers will recognize -- Accio, Alohamora, Expelliarmus, Diffindo, Lumos, Aguamenti, Protego, Reducto, Stupefy, Expecto Patronum, and more. Like at Hogwarts, players start with the easiest spells and gradually learn the more difficult and more powerful spells. Along the way, players (or should I say students of magic) get to read wizarding tales, collect trophies and solve conundrums.
The kids are loving it! Learning the motions for each spell is not too difficult because there are onscreen prompts to help, and there's a small window that shows you what you look like as you wave your wand (remember, Swish and Flick!). However So far they've only mastered Wingardium Leviosa and Alohamora, but they're enjoying every minute.
I'm really impressed by the Book of Spells. This is augmented reality at its best -- the use of the PS3's Move technology plus the cool Wonderbook (I understand now why the Wonderbook is filled with generic, QR code-like symbols.... they'll probably be releasing other titles in the future to be used with the Wonderbook!), the beautiful graphics plus the accurate settings (you'll find yourself in the herbology lab, in the restricted section of the Hogwarts library, etc... ) plus the introduction of familiar objects and characters (Golden Galleons, gnomes, etc...) make it feel like you've really entered Harry's world. You can see JK Rowling's hand in every detail, from the funny back stories for each of the spells to the way Miranda Goshawk sometimes appears and tries to shove boogers up your nose. It's totally magical. I can't think of a kid who wouldn't love it. This Muggle is sold!
Disclosure: As a Playstation Family blogger, I received a review copy of Wonderbook: Book of Spells. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.