New technology for the family is all very well, but what works in the test lab doesn't always translate into successful family fun in the living room. In these blog posts I'll be putting game tech to the test.
Wonderbook is a new way to play video-games and experience stories that uses the PlayStation 3 camera in conjunction with a plush pop-up book. The twist here is that the book is blank until placed in front of the PlayStation 3, whereupon the pages are populated on the screen with all sorts of interactive stories and challenges.
To put this to the test I persuaded a real family of five (boys aged 6, 8 and 10) to give the peripheral a try with two new games for it, Book of Potions and Walking With Dinosaurs. We spent an hour or so playing each of the games before talking to them to see what they made of it.
A first for this kind of review, I've then published both the edited conversation about the game as well as the unedited footage of us playing it. Together you get a really good picture of how well the Wonderbook games work in a family.
As you can see the family got on very well with the game. It was easy to get started, and took minimal setting up. We did find that it worked better with the lights on, and better during daylight hours.
The physical book aspect of the game worked well to draw in a wider range of players in the family. It also offered a way for the boys to share the game and take turns on it -- the pages acting as a nice "swap-point". The dinosaur theme was also a hit, and certainly connected strongly with the three boys.
In particular they enjoyed the excavation and bone hunting aspect of the game, as well as the moment in chapter two where you have to pull Cockroaches out of the dinosaur excrement. Mum appreciated the quiz and educational elements.
Although the family hadn't tracked closely with Harry Potter, the Book of Potions game for Wonderbook was still popular. The idea of creating different magical potions from the ingredients creates a supernatural cook-book feel to proceedings.
Again, turning pages, rotating and tilting the big book peripheral made the experience seem very real. There was obviously a big novelty to seeing themselves on the screen in amongst the different locations and creatures. To then be able to interact with the world using the PlayStation 3 motion sensitive Move controller was the icing on the cake.
Again we found that spending a bit of time setting up the room and making sure there was enough light for the camera resulted in a better experience. Also, pointing the camera down towards the floor and playing in the centre of the room made sure everyone could get involved.
Watch the family play the game unedited, here.
As I concluded our play session it seemed that they had generally been a success. This was as much from the different ways to engage with the stories and interact with the game as it had been any one moment. Perhaps the most positive sign was that they were keen to play some more.