Published on April 15th, 2012 | by Shawn Long, Features Editor
Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir Review
Publisher: Nintendo and Tecmo-Koei
Release Date: April 13th, 2012
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Price: $39.99 USD
When I first saw Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir, I thought it was one of the coolest things I had ever seen. It appeared to be a new way to play horror games and, although it was related to the Fatal Frame series, would perhaps take the series in a new direction. Unfortunately, while the Spirit Camera does showcase the Nintendo 3DS AR component nicely, the feature doesn’t bode well for an entire game.
Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir is a very Japanese-style horror game that uses the Nintendo 3DS camera and gyro sensor as the main devices for play. In the game box you receive a strange notebook with drawings sketched in it inside the game case, and this is what you use to play the main game. Think of the AR cards but in book form. The story goes that you must discover the secrets of this notebook, while helping out a young girl named Maya. While most of the game takes place in your actual reality around you, some points of the game are done with an on-rails style gameplay where you move your 3DS around to view your surroundings.
The main problem with this game is that it’s a horror game that has to be played in really good lighting. Which, ironically, seems a little contrary to the point. If the lighting isn’t perfect, the AR book will not work, and the game will not recognize what it’s looking at. I eventually created a solid lighting rig by turning off all my lights and using a small lamp to create a creepy atmosphere, but it felt like I was doing too much. Another issue is that you have to move a lot while looking around your environment and, at times, standing up to view everything. By doing that I would mess up my light scheme because I was trying to play on the couch, so I ran into some problems there. Coupled with the fact that you have to look around in a full 360 degree motion, I ended up just moving into the kitchen which had good daylight.
At times you engage in battle with ghosts, which consists of pointing the camera at the ghost and taking a picture when the opportunity is right. The battle system works, but feels a bit clunky at times. Once again, you will be expected to move around in 360 degree motion, so make sure you have some room cleared out before whipping around in a circle to battle.
The story moves along nicely, but there are some presentation issues that make everything feel rushed. The problem is that the game does not have full voice acting–only in certain parts. Add that with the fact that the lip-syncing wasn’t fluid, though the voice work was surprisingly decent, I found it took me out of the game at times. The graphics are acceptable, but feel uninspired. When you are in the on-rail segments, everything is too dark and feels drab. The sound effects and music are also very atmospheric; Spirit Camera is best played with headphones to fully enjoy it.
The length of the game is another problem. I went through the main story in three and a half hours, and that was dealing with lighting issues. Completing the main game does offer a new mode unlocked, but I didn’t feel motivated to complete it again as it is basically the main game with a few added features. The game does offer some mini-games that help extend the life, including some neat camera tricks that put ghosts in pictures of you. The effect isn’t perfect, but it does make for some interesting photos that are saved to your SD card.
Although this review has been mostly negative, I did have some moments of enjoyment with Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir. The use of the AR book was interesting, and I enjoyed some of the puzzles. Also, there were times when the ghosts happened to appear in the perfect spot, such as emerging for the area where my closet is in my room. Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir feels like an AR tech demo at its core, which is a shame. Hopefully companies will take the good from this title and expand upon it, while adding traditional game play elements. Fans of horror games and Japanese horror should check this out, but I can’t really recommend it for anyone else.
+ Interesting concept
+ At times it works really well
– Lighting situation is too inconsistent
– Main story is way too short
– Feels like a tech demo