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Game Review: Wonderbook: Book of Spells

Ever wish you could hang out at Hogwarts, mastering its magic and sharing tales of great adventure with Harry Potter and friends?

Now you can, Muggle, creating something out of nothing while gaining important life lessons through the power of the Sony PlayStation 3 game system and a special gathering of software and peripherals.

Bearing the highbrow and imaginative stamp of Potter author J.K. Rowling and exclusive to the PS3 system, the new augmented reality video game and storyteller "Wonderbook: Book of Spells" requires a would-be conjurer to sit cross-legged on the floor in front of a TV and game console. At your knees rests a curious Wonderbook printed just with odd graphic symbols. A PlayStation Eye video camera (plugged into the PS3) captures your actions.

Now wave a glowing, wireless PS3 Move motion controller (always magical) over one of Wonderbook's pages. And lo, your room view as depicted on the TV screen is now decorated with animated cartoon scenery. And the Move controller itself appears transformed into a magical wand.

With proper application of wand movements and incantations, you'll soon be summoning up all sorts of magical stuff to rise from this ultimate pop-up book -- say, working spells to levitate creatures ("Wingardium Leviosa") or conjure up a bonfire ("Incendio").

You'll also learn humorous facts relating to the spell-casting and read mischievous notes hidden in the Wonderbook's margins by prior practitioners.

Once a task is completed, sit back and be entertained with a rhyming conundrum -- a Rawlings-written tale lending insights into the making of a successful witch or wizard. The game also connects members to the pottermore.com website.

So what's a visit to Hogwarts going to cost a mere mortal?

Fortunate souls who already possess a Sony PS3, the EyeToy camera and a Move controller can matriculate with a Wonderbook and companion "Book of Spells" video game selling together for about $40.

Starting from scratch? A "Wonderbook: Book of Spells" bundle (discounted to about $95) packs all the necessary school supplies except for a PS3 game system (now $269 and up).

Also destined to rise from a Wonderbook's pages are a film noir detective story "Diggs Nightcrawler," an unnamed Disney-backed project and a BBC-spawned adventure built on its "Walking With Dinosaurs" series.

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