What do Sony and books have to do with each other? No, they're not releasing another eReader. Instead, Sony brought to the stage of their press event something that felt a little rushed. The company has teamed up with J.K. Rowling to produce Book of Spells, which is a game based on the Wonderbook platform that they also announced at the event.
What is Wonderbook? It's actually a great little augmented reality piece of hardware and software. Using your PlayStation Eye camera and a special book you must purchase, kind of like the AR Cards from the 3DS, will make several different games and images appear on the screen. When you place the waterproof book on your floor, the book then shows up on the TV, where it animates to life. The images that appear have that Harry Potter feel to them and objects will randomly come out at you in 3D. You can also pick up the book, move it and do whatever you want, and then image on screen will follow suit. The good news is you'll only need one Wonderbook for all future titles so you won't have to buy any new "hardware."
However, while all seems well on the surface and the idea is great, there's a couple of problems that showed up when they presented us Book of Spells, the launch title for the Wonderbook. What's the issue? We'll talk about it all after the break.
Book of Spells is about a book written over two hundred years ago and was found stashed away in the Restricted Section of Hogwarts library. Open the book and you will be immersed in a world that teaches you spells you will need to learn to progress through your lesson-learning. You will also discover notes, spells and clever facts that are written on the sides of each page, all by using your Wonderbook.
Here are the features of the game from Sony.
Learn the art of spell-casting. Chapter by chapter, you will be able to read about and practise 20 spells, picking up valuable experiences and lessons along the way - as well as House Points - just like a student at HogwartsTM.
Original content from J.K. Rowling. From the world of Harry PotterTM, the Book of Spells reveals new and exciting content by the world's best-loved author. Offering backstories to the famous spells, valuable lessons and brand new creatures, student wizards can unlock more writing with every chapter test.
When Book of Spells was being demoed, I was watching intently, hoping that we'd see some cool things, regardless of if it's a Harry Potter-inspired title. Unfortunately, while the ideas behind the game are sound, the implementation and actual gameplay is not up to par and feels like it should have waited until after E3 to have been announced.
The movements were jittery, the graphics, for what is being produced by the powerful PlayStation graphics chip, felt very much like I was playing the Wii. The book's edges reminded me of the 8-bit world of Minecraft and the actions on screen had a very painful resemblance of Lair to them. There was even an instance where one of the demo girls did a certain motion with the PlayStation Move controller, which functions as your wand, and it took six or seven tries before it finally took the action. Again, maybe this was something that should've waited and instead felt like it was thrown on stage in order to compete with Microsoft's new Kinect and Bing enhancements.
Watch the trailer, check out the gameplay demo footage and let me know what you think. Is it possible they can work through the flaws and create a better game? To me, I just don't think it's in the books.