It’s been a year since Sony released its Wonderbook alongside the Potter-verse centred game Book of Spells. The peripheral wasn’t quite the success they hoped for. The mixture of requiring expensive accessories (the Wonderbook requires a Playstation Move system as well as the physical book for games to work) and a distinct lack of advertising or at least advertising to the right people, kids, doomed it to failure. By January, shelves were loaded with unsold games.
Now, one year on from launch, Sony has finally provided some new titles for those of us with a Wonderbook gathering dust at home.
First up is the second in the Harry Potter range, Book of Potions. The game follows almost exactly the same premise as the original Book of Spells but there are some new features included too, such as placing the Move controller beside your book when instructed, which magically changes your wand into a wooden spoon, tongs, garden shears, or other tools you might need to brew your potions.
Once again you are given the option to link the game with an existing Pottermore account, thus bringing in your selected house and wand from the platform. If you’re not a member, you get to choose both. As the book progresses, players are gradually introduced to the character of Zygmunt Budge, an accomplished potioneer who helps you learn to brew your own potions.
When I looked at Book of Spells last year I was impressed with the game and Book of Potions gave me the same positive impression.
However, it is not without issues. I invited my nephew (a few weeks shy of turning seven) over to play and he found it exceedingly difficult and grew bored fast.
Creating a potion requires a large number of steps and with the slow progress of a child, there can be a lot of waiting before any potions are actually brewed. Even with three children taking turns, they all got bored of chopping the onions required for the initial potion and I ended up taking over to get them through that process and onto something new.
The new tool, switching mechanism, was also a point of frustration, even my husband and I found it difficult to position the Move controller in the exact spot on the floor required for the game to pick it up and make the transformation.
The game as a whole seems a little confused with gameplay clearly aimed at a younger audience–the potion making process reminded me of Nintendo’s Cooking Mama–but dialogue, back-story, and a level of precision aimed at those much older for whom the actual game would be a little tedious.
This was the one I was really looking forward to and the main reason for inviting my nephew over to play. As with most children of his age, he’s more than a little bit keen on dinosaurs. The book takes on the form of an illustrated encyclopedia of dinosaurs, with each page focusing on different aspects of their lives and the environment.
The mini games are far more varied than Book of Potions too. An early game requires you to sit perfectly still and quiet to stop a large gorgosaurus from finding you in the bushes. Of course, as my nephew decided instead, there’s always the option of shouting to make it come over, much to the disquiet of his four-year-old sister who was desperately trying to make him shut up! Other games included using a hammer and brush to uncover fossils, placing bones into a skeleton to form a dinosaur, and finding a selection of creatures in an animated 360 degree 3D picture.
Progressing through the book unlocks collectable cards, not of any interest to my four year old who was mostly enamored by the big dinosaurs stomping about in our living room, but brilliant for kids of a certain age for whom collecting cards and stickers is an obsession.
My nephew was completely enraptured by the game and didn’t want to take turns with the other kids, even when there were a few difficulties such as figuring out why a puzzle wasn’t unlocking or pointing the controller at a very specific point on the screen.
Unlike Book of Potions, Walking with Dinosaurs really knows its target audience and works at their level. The game is also being released to coincide with Walking with Dinosaurs 3D hitting movie screens, and characters from the film–Patchi, Juniper, and Gorgon–make regular appearances.
Wonderbook is still a dubious piece of technology, if only from a cost perspective. The requirement of a Move in order to play makes buying the technology cost prohibitive, and now with the release of the PS4, the PS3 is already taking its first steps toward the dusty shelf of retirement.
Are parents really going to want to fork out $50-80 (only the original Book of Spells can be bought packaged with a Move–both new games are only available standalone or with a Wonderbook) for the system? For those already in possession of the system then both games are genuinely good experiences–especially Walking with Dinosaurs if you have a dino lover in your home–at a fairly low cost.
Worth $80? Sorry Sony but no, not at this time.
GeekMom received both games for review purposes.