Wonderbook: Book of Spells Review - IGN
Share.Sony's Move Experiment Fails to Be Spell-BindingBy Alex Simmons
Okay, I admit it, it was me. Yes,Iwas one of one of the few people who actually thought Wonderbook looked pretty decent after its debut at E3. As a parent, the prospect of engaging with a compelling, interactive story-telling experience was one I couldn’t wait to try out; as a book lover I was intrigued to see if Wonderbook was capable of pushing the medium in a new and exciting direction.
Unfortunately, the reality doesn’t quite live up to expectations. Wonderbook – or more specifically Book of Spells, because I still believe the actual concept has potential – isn’t quite interactive enough to make it an enjoyable game, and doesn’t have the compelling narrative of a great book.
Book of Spells is pitched as the must-read companion for every pupil at Hogwarts, a magical tome filled with every spell and incantation you could possibly wish to learn as a wannabe witch or wizard. It’s split into five initial chapters, with freshers taking their first steps into the wizarding world by learning how to levitate and shooting water from the tip of their wand. By the time you reach the closing pages you’ll have mastered summoning a Patronus to scare off Dementors.
While the idea of following in Harry Potter’s footsteps and conjuring a magnificent, shimmering beast to fight the worst Azkaban has to offer sounds interesting, perhaps Wonderbook’s biggest misstep is that you don’t actually get to use the spells that much once you’ve learned then. Instead, the focus is very much on the gestures needed to cast them, using the Move to flick shapes and fire off spells. You open the book, learn a new spell, try it out and then rinse and repeat until you reach the final page.
Of course, there’s more to Book of Spells and one of its highlights is the way it brings each spell to life. When you discover a new spell you’re treated to a tale explaining its origins, told either by the narrator or through a puppet show in a paper theatre that pops up from the pages of Wonderbook. It’s a nice touch and helps bring the wizarding world
to life, especially when it asks you to interact with the Wonderbook itself, turning it around to get an alternative view or picking it up to discover something that otherwise you couldn’t see.
The problem is, of the 20 spells there are to learn, only a handful actually make really good use of what Wonderbook is capable of. Mostly, the stories are presented in much the same way with little variation and while the paper theatre tales are charming they do grow tiresome by the time you reach the end of the book. If there more ways of unravelling the story, rather than just a couple of ways, the whole experience would’ve been far more compelling.
The same criticism can be aimed at the practice areas you’re dropped in after learning the spells. The world of Harry Potter is rich and varied, yet in the game you’re constantly forced to revisit the same Hogwarts hall or herbology room, zapping gnomes and imps, time and again. It’s fun to begin it doesn’t take long before it feels like your retreading old ground.
Book of Spells does get some things right. The presentation is fantastic; the way the book springs to life and monsters crawl from its pages is exactly what Wonderbook excels at, and the idea of a proper storybook that incorporates these elements is something I’m still holding out for. The narrative, too, is very good and the delivery of the dialogue is easily on par with what you’d expect from an audio book, only here you’re interacting with the story. And then there’s the orchestral score, which is both fantastical and mischievous, and captures the Harry Potter vibe perfectly.
However, those looking for a fully-fledged Potter experience will be disappointed. Yes, you’ll learn many of the spells and interact with creatures ripped straight out of the world JK Rowling created. But, considering the source material it’s based on, it doesn’t go quite far enough. Additionally, while much of the narrative maintains the charm and character of the books and will most definitely appeal to Potter fans, because there’s no overarching story pulling it together, it’s more like a series of disjointed limericks than a true addition to the Potter canon.