Available on PS3
We'll say one thing for Wonderbook right now: Sony hasn’t gone into this half-hearted. An ambitious augmented reality book for the Sony PS3, it makes great use of the PlayStation Eye camera and the PlayStation Move controller, and it makes its debut with a title grounded in what's still fiction's hottest property, Harry Potter. On paper, it's a great combination. The Move controller makes a great magic wand, and from the pages of the Wonderbook arises a lovingly rendered world of witchcraft and wizardry, all bound up in the most enchanted book of spells. As a game it might fall flat, but as an experience it's genuinely magical.
As an augmented reality platform, Wonderbook combines five things: the PS3, the TV, the PS Eye camera, the Move controller and a specially printed book whose cover and pages are filled with oversized, QR-code like emblems. You place the book on the floor, sit on the floor behind it, position the PS Eye so that both you and the book are in view, then use the Move controller to interact with it. If you already have PlayStation Move then you can buy Wonderbook: Book of Spells on its own for under £25. If you haven’t, it comes in a pack for just under £60.
Turning the pages of the Wonderbook turns the pages of a virtual book on screen, and it's there that those pages come alive. Text floats off the page to be read. Creatures crawl to life out of the paper. Scenes pop out as fully 3D shapes, or encompass the whole screen. These elements don't just populate the area of the book, but creep, bounce or fly into your living room, and even the Move controller becomes a classic Harry Potter Magic Wand. Look carefully, and it's not hard to spot the odd glitch or an incorrect shadow that breaks the illusion, but as illusions go it’s remarkably convincing. We were cynical, but for the first half hour or so - and frequently after that - the Wonderbook really is a thing of wonder.
It's also made for Harry Potter fans - particularly young ones. The whole premise is that this is an old book written by a legendary witch to give novice witches and wizards a grounding in the most important spells. Each chapter takes you through a selection, complete with descriptions, instructions for casting, some simple, fun exercises, a few stories and - finally - a grand test that puts all the spells learnt to good use.
The presentation is consistently brilliant. Letters and words fly off the page to form sentences at the top of the screen, or magically transform into objects or critters. Stories are told as shows in a pop-up pupper theatre, complete with tabs you can pull on to make something move or decide whether a wizard will sing the national anthem or play the bagpipes (though you may be informed that your selection wasn't right). Holes appear in the page, and you tilt the book to look down them. Birds appear, summoned by your wand, and proceed to munch on bugs crawling around the pages. The music, while not tied into any Potter themes, still hits all the right notes, and the voiceover, performed by a David Tennant sound-alike, is perfectly pitched.