Book of Spells pushes the boundaries of gaming into a realm I never envisaged: augmented reality.
Somewhere along the way, the fourth wall’s contract was cancelled, and it was given its passport at the airport, retina-scanned and sent on its way.
Welcome to a new kind of game, where the line between fantasy and reality isn’t so much blurred as rubbed out.
The technology behind the Book of Spells is impressive – and even more impressive as it worked flawlessly. My youngest and I spent much of Saturday in Hogwarts, waving our wands and learning the right kind of swish-and-flick as we took our first course in magic.
But it’s not a minor investment. To use this game, you need the new PS Wonderbook, alongside the existing camera (PS Eye) and handheld motion sensor (PS Move). Various editions of the Book of Spells come with some or all of these peripherals, depending on what you need.
Set-up for all the devices was smooth, the on-screen instructions clear and the calibration simple.
Once the hardware’s set up, the magic begins.
The software uses the PS Eye to display a real-time video of the player and their surroundings – except the PS Move is replaced with a Harry Potter wand, and the Wonderbook with the Book of Spells. Open the book, and inside the pictures move and text dances, just like in the Potter books and films.
It is quite frankly jaw-dropping, and the possibilities of what this tech might be able to do in future will tie your brain in knots.
And then there’s the ‘game’. It’s more interactive story than game, and it’s more of a general ‘experience’ than it is an interactive story. To be honest, I’m not sure what to call it. I feel like Shakespeare’s Horatio – the Book of Spells is stranger than I dreamt of in my philosophy.
What the ‘game’ does is teach you to cast spells, Harry Potter style, in a Hogwarts classroom. There are lessons to learn, tests to take and house points to be won. There’s a history of each spell, practical practice, pranks to pull, owls delivering letters and more.
If you’re not a Harry Potter fan, it will all seem a little silly, and probably rather dull.
If you are a fan, this is what you’ve been dreaming of for years: your personal Hogwarts admission letter. It won’t matter much to you if there isn’t much traditional game, because you can swish and flick, say, “Wingardium Leviosa” and start making jars, toads and mandrakes levitate around your lounge.
But whatever you think of the game, the technology remains stunning.