At E3 this week I had the opportunity to spend a little bit of time with PlayStation's new interactive book product Wonderbook and its first title Book of Spells. The entire experience can be summed up in just one word: magical.
Sony announced Wonderbook at its E3 press conference on Monday. The interactive book looks for all intents and purposes like a traditional hardcover book, however, inside the pages are shapes rather than words. Used along with the PlayStation Move, the pages of the book can be read on the screen and come to life.
While Sony has plans to release a number of titles for the book, at E3 it was showing off only its first title, a book with original content written by Potter author J.K. Rowling, and the first tangible thing to come of Sony's new partnership with Pottermore.
Modeled after an advanced textbook found in the restricted section of the Hogwarts library, Book of Spells has players learn different spells in order to becoming expert wizards. On your television screen you'll see yourself and the book in the environment you're in, so if you're in your living room that's showing up on the TV as well. Your PlayStation Move controller become a wand, and appears as such on the TV.
"Wonderbook Book of Spells is the closest a Muggle can come to a real spellbook," Rowling said in a statement displayed during Sony's E3 press conference. "I've loved working with Sony's creative team to bring my spells, and some of the history behind them, to life. This is an extraordinary device that offers a reading experience like no other."
Words in the book can be moved from book to screen to read with a flick of your wand, and as you progress the book gets highly interactive, bringing in a number of magical elements into the mix.
The augmented reality in the game is really what makes it shine. When learning the engorgio charm, for instance, you're given a pumpkin and charged with making it grow on the surface of the book. Waving the book around affects the pumpkin animation, so it looks as if you do, in fact, have a giant pumpkin resting on your book.
In another part of the spellbook, the book catches on fire and you have to put it out and the wipe the soot from its pages. In another, your book becomes covered with sand, and you dust it off by covering the ground around it in virtual sand.
Each chapter has its own lesson you are quizzed about at the end. There is also a room you can go in to practice spells you've learned.
While its probably not going to impress hard-core gamers, Wonderbook is pretty impressive. The graphics and gameplay are exceptionally immersive, and it's something that is bound to blow away young Potter fans. Sitting on the floor in front of a large television in Sony's press area, I felt almost as if the the virtual dragons and fires were real.
Check out the gallery below for a closer look at the game. What do you think? Can you see yourself wanting to play Book of Spells? Let us know your thoughts on the game in the comments.