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In November 2012, a new type of Harry Potter game experience was released. Called Wonderbook: Book of Spells, the game was met with excitement and great anticipation, as it utilizes a new type of technology to present an immersive and interactive experience, while introducing a number of new canon elements into the Harry Potter universe. So how does the Wonderbook experience stack up? Read on to find out.
Seeing as I already owned a PlayStation 3, I knew that Wonderbook was something that I definitely wanted to have. The very idea of the game is exciting-- allowing you to take control of your own magic wand and learn spells from a spellbook and view your achievements on-screen. The player is quickly drawn into the world of magic, with tales of wizarding history, and familiar incantations and magic.
Wonderbook offers a fun selection of spells, from starting out with simple charms such as the Levitation Charm, to advanced magic such as the Patronus Charm. This latter one is one of the true highlights of the game, in which you find out just what your Patronus is and watch with delight as it capers, sending Dementors scattering. Throughout the game are a series of entertaining tales about great uses of spells in history, along with some opportunities for humour as you guess what happens next in the story. Additionally, after learning the spells, you'll usually be given the opportunity to test what you just learned in a wizarding challenge, with a test at the end of each chapter. Doing well on these opportunities earns you House Points, and the game is also connected to the PlayStation Network, allowing to earn Trophies, with the valuable Platinum Trophy "First Edition" granted for getting through the game and completing all the other Trophies.
All of this isn't to say that Wonderbook: Book of Spells isn't without its flaws. The two biggest of these would have be overall length and replay value. For the price at which the game is offered, the length of the game is actually surprisingly short. I assume the price has more to do with the innovative nature of the game, as each chapter (and there are only five) only takes about an hour or two to complete. Most of the Trophies are earned simply for progressing through the game, and there are only a couple where you have to fulfill specific skill requirements. As such, replay value is very limited, since you can easily earn all of the Trophies without having to start a new playthrough. The game encourages you to practice, but it doesn't give you any major incentive to do so. Furthermore, while the game allows you to link with your Pottermore account to customise your wand and House, the "House Points" that it gives don't seem to be credited to your Pottermore account, at least not in my experience. This is quite disappointing, as it would have been a great incentive to keep playing. One can only hope that future downloadable content may be offered for this game, either in the form of upgrades or new spells to learn.
The other biggest annoyance with the game is the controls. If you get the game, do yourself a favor-- do as the game instructs and sit on the floor. Even though it may be a bit uncomfortable, you will save yourself a lot of hassle this way. Even with this, there are still things that are somewhat irritating. The game asks you to make gestures to cast spells, but oftentimes you can almost precisely duplicate what is on-screen and it won't recognise it, whereas at other times, you can make a gesture that seemingly isn't even close, and it'll accept it. Furthermore, any exercise that asks you to aim your wand at something can be a bit of a pain in the rear to master.
Would I recommend Book of Spells? Yes. But I'd say wait for the price to drop, or consider looking for an opportunity to rent, or get a used copy. Or, if you don't have a PlayStation 3 and/or just want to experience the story of the game, seek out the videos of the gameplay online.
Overall rating: 7.5/10