A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Kids can learn about solving problems, dust off their acting skills, and practice memorization and reading in this engaging interactive book. Kids read along with the game's many stories, following words as they're highlighted onscreen. More than that, the stories engage players, often tasking them to figure out which of two words should be used to properly finish sentences. Kids also get to see themselves on TV as they act out the role of a young witch or wizard wielding a wand, memorizing spell movements, and forcefully speaking spell words.
This game encourages kids to use their imagination to see what it might be like to learn and cast spells used by witches and wizards in the Harry Potter universe. It also encourages a love of reading, letting players follow short stories by reading highlighted words.
Positive Role Models
Many of the game's short stories act as fables or lessons, often showing what happens to people who behave badly or selfishly. But the most significant personality is the player's instructor, who acts as an encouraging and conscientious guide through each page of the book.
Ease of Play
Players are led through the book page by page by a spell casting instructor. It's generally pretty straightforward, and additional help/hints can be obtained by tapping the triangle button. Note, though, that some players -- especially younger ones -- may experience difficulty performing specific wand movements or holding the Move controller in the proper position to interact with elements of the book. The navigation with each chapter having two parts can also be confusing at first.
Violence & Scariness
Some of the situations are a bit scary, like when vines creep out of the dark and try to attack the book. There is occasional violence within the game's short stories, including a man who is swallowed whole by a giant cat-like monster. These scenes are acted out by paper puppets in a pop-up theatre. Players will occasionally engage opponents, using their wands to disarm other wizards or fend off attacking fantasy creatures. There is no killing; players only stun their enemies or are stunned themselves, in which case the screen fades to black and they try again.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The word "wine" is heard once during a story.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Wonderbook: Book of Spells is a less a game than a collection of Harry Potter-themed stories and activities. It requires a Wonderbook -- a paper and cardboard storybook that comes with the game -- as well as a PlayStation Move controller and PlayStation Eye camera. You can purchase the game and Wonderbook, or a bundle that also includes the Move and Eye camera. Through a combination of augmented reality and player imagination kids get to experience what it's like to be a witch or wizard learning to cast spells. The game contains infrequent instances of fantasy violence, including one story in which a character dies, but these events play out with paper puppets in a pop-up theatre. Players occasionally engage virtual opponents themselves, but only to stun them with magic spells cast from their wands.
Is It Any Good?
Wonderbook: Book of Spells is less a game and more an interactive extension of the Harry Potter universe that delves into the history and practice of the series' most famous magical incantations. It's delightfully acted, beautifully presented, and surprisingly immersive. Whether practicing spells with waves of their wands or just pulling virtual tabs as they interact with pop-up book stories, kids feel constantly engaged.
It's a little formulaic -- learn about spells, practice them, take a test, repeat -- but this could prove helpful for younger players. There's quite a bit for players to take in at the start as they figure out how to interact with the book and properly use their wands. Repetition means kids will become more comfortable over time and able to anticipate (in a general way) what's coming next. Bottom line: Wonderbook: Book of Spells is unusual, magical, and memorable. We think young Harry Potter fans will be enchanted.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.