Hands on with the J.K.-Rowling-infused Wonderbook: Book of Spells

Wonderbook Book of Spells at Sonys E3 ConferenceThis E3 was light on big shocks. Most of the announcements were better looks at things we already knew were coming based on earlier announcements, or leaks that snowballed into common knowledge. There were a few exceptions though. 

Book-of-Spells-ClassroomAt the Sony press conference, one of the loudest audible exclamations came during the presentation of Wonderbook. The game itself looks interesting enough. You have a book covered in sensors that the PlayStation Eye Camera reads as whatever the particular software tells it to, and with the Move controller, the game uses augmented reality to create a game you become part of.

Wonderbook seems like it will be an interesting and fun interactive experience (and a potentially intriguing learning tool), and with different software offerings planned it definitely has potential, but for a smaller, niche audience. And then Sony dropped the news that J.K. Rowling would be involved and the first offering for Wonderbook would be based on the Harry Potter universe. Jaws dropped.

It’s one of the first times that Rowling has worked on Harry Potter outside of the books, and it is certainly something that will bring a lot of attention to the Wonderbook project. At E3, we got the chance to try it out.

Hands on

The book is designed with several markers on each of the pages. Using augmented reality, you see yourself on camera looking at the book, which on screen appears to be a magical tome straight out of Hogwarts. It needs to remain relatively stationary to keep the image consistent, but it worked well enough for what is still essentially a prototype.

On camera, the Move controller becomes a wand, which should make more than a few kids squee with delight. There will, of course, be a contingent of older Harry Potter fans that will no doubt try to look tough while holding their magical weapon. Pro tip: It won’t work. Ever.

Wonderbook Book of SpellsThe book will feature several options for you to choose, and they will teach you how to cast spells the Hogwarts way. Each spell will require a different movement to cast, and those movements will become progressively more complex as the game progresses, but none are so difficult as to be truly frustrating. They will typically just be a short series of fluid movements, forming things like a figure four or an up and down stroke. Each movement will activate a different magic that you can then use with a flick of the Move.

The lessons are broken into chapters, and after learning the necessary magic spells you will then be taken to the chapter test, which is a cross between a quiz and an adventure. In the demo being displayed, the chapter ended in a pyramid with scorpions coming after you. As the scorpions stepped on a grate, you could cast a reduction spell to shrink them and send them down the openings in the grates. Each challenge has a particular solution, and some will require you to quickly switch between types of magic. If you get stuck, the handy British narrator is there to give you hints.

The demo showed the player at the mercy of a sphinx, as questions needed to be answered correctly to proceed. There’s no fear of dying in these games, and the riddles won’t trouble younger gamers that much and older gamer at all.

The real appeal of Book of Spells are the tales that are told as part of the lessons, and they will give more stories from the Potterverse.  They won’t change or add to the actual Potter stories, but they will be a fun bit of background for fans.

Book-of-Spells When you boil it down, Book of Spells is an exceedingly simple game but the Harry Potter name alone will bring an incredible amount of attention to it. Younger fans will likely go insane over it. It won’t really appeal to older fans though, unless they are willing to put up with some very basic move-based gameplay in order to hear a bit of Potterverse backstory. But the real question for Wonderbook is how do they follow it up? How do you keep people interested in the technology after debuting with a Harry Potter-themed game created in conjunction with J.K. Rowling?

For now though, Wonderbook: Book of Spells will be a great offering for younger audiences — much younger audiences. There isn’t much to the game itself beyond the immersion fans of Potter will bring to it, and that will inevitably limit the appeal. But for those that are of the right age, this game will be a huge hit.

Gaming

Epic Games sues ‘Fortnite’ YouTuber creators over cheating software

Epic Games has filed a lawsuit against two YouTube users for their role in promoting cheating and hacking tools for Fortnite via a YouTube channel and personal website. As of now, the channel is still live.
Movies & TV

Peter Dinklage gets cryptic about two 'Game of Thrones' characters' fates

With the eighth and final season looming, Game of Thrones fever has officially become a pandemic. Our list of all the relevant news and rumors will help make the wait more bearable -- if you don't mind spoilers.
Movies & TV

Stay inside this summer with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Castle Rock'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we've put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix in October, from 'Mindhunter’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in October, from 'The Witch’ to ‘Black Panther’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, subdued humor, or anything in between.
Gaming

The hottest Nintendo Switch games you can get right now

The Nintendo Switch's lineup started off small, but games have steadily released as the console continues through its second year. Here are the best Nintendo Switch games available now, from Super Mario Odyssey to Fortnite.
Emerging Tech

Light-swallowing room promises Call of Duty fans the blackest of ops

What's it like to be in a room fully painted with the world's darkest material, Vantablack? The makers of one of the year's top video games teamed up with Vantablack scientists to find out.
Gaming

Terrifying clowns try to kill you in this teaser for ‘PUBG’ Halloween event

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds seems to be getting a frightening Halloween event. In a brief teaser, we get a glimpse of two masked assailants, creepy nurses, and an utterly terrifying clown that looks something like Pennywise.
Gaming

Huawei thinks its Mate 20 X is better than the Nintendo Switch

Huawei positioned its Mate 20 X, a gaming-centric smartphone, as a Nintendo Switch killer, calling it "the best portable gaming machine." The Mate 20 X has better design specs than the Switch, but it also comes with a steep price.
Gaming

Eat your way to a limited-edition Xbox One X in new Taco Bell contest

If you like the idea of a limited-edition Xbox One X that makes Taco Bell's famous "bong" sound every time it starts up, then you need to enter a new contest launched by the fast-food chain and Microsoft without delay.
Gaming

You can preload ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ soon, and you definitely should

Red Dead Redemption 2's launch is quickly approaching. If you're planning on buying a digital version, you should keep in mind that the file size is roughly 90GB. Thankfully, you can preload the game starting October 19
Gaming

These guns will literally blow away the competition in Black Ops 4's Blackout

Finding a good weapon in Black Ops 4's Blackout mode is hard, especially when there are so many options. Whether you like to get up close or keep some distance between you and your enemies, here are the best guns in Blackout.
Gaming

Wings on the bus: ‘Fortnite’ Battle Bus now sends you to your death even faster

A new update for Fortnite: Battle Royale has made the starting Battle Bus significantly faster, meaning you can get killed by a better player even faster than you could up until now.
Gaming

You're not a true fan without these Nintendo Switch exclusives

Who doesn't love a good Nintendo game? If you're looking for great first-party titles for your Nintendo Switch, take a look at our list of the very best exclusives available right now.