Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir was released in North America a month ago. Out of curiosity, I decided to give the game a try. It is an augmented reality spin-off in the Fatal Frame series, and was co-developed by Tecmo Koei and Nintendo for the Nintendo 3DS.
I wasn’t really sure what to make of the game as I opened it. Bre and I had been watching it carefully, and I am glad to finally be able to review it. It comes with a little booklet called the “Diary of Faces”. Let me just warn you right away. Don’t. Lose. That. Book. I probably would have reviewed this weeks ago if I hadn’t lost it in my class notes.
In all honesty, horror games aren’t really my cup of tea. I don’t really get spooked, and have been banned from horror films with friends due to my hysterical laughter at the expense of the characters in the movies. Still, I hope this filter will help me dissect this game and all of its strong and weak points in a couple of paragraphs.
This game heavily focuses on the Nintendo 3DS AR functions.
Duh, but so far the AR feature in the 3DS has mostly just been used for little games and taking pictures. It’s a cool tool to have, but is it really enough to successfully pull off a decent shelf title in the store? I will admit that Spirit Camera does a decent job, but at the same time I feel like it could have been done better.
The game is about you, the player, receiving the Diary of Faces in the mail not long after obtaining the Camera Obscura, AKA your Nintendo 3DS. The Camera Obscura has the ability to expose and exorcise spirits by taking pictures of them, and as the story progresses you can get filters to allow you to unlock events trapped in the book.
Upon turning the Camera Obscura to The Diary of Faces, you are taken to an old creepy house. By moving your 3DS around, you can look around the hallway as you slowly walk across the silent and seemingly abandoned house. You are about to open a door, when a girl tells you to stop and the two of you are dragged back into your own world. I’m going to explain this place as your bedroom, because you’re going to want freedom for movement in this game. Otherwise people will be raising a few brows as you try to act like a Ghost Buster. Don’t sing the song too…it only makes them more confused.
The seemingly abandoned and creepy house is, of course, not completely abandoned. Many spirits haunt it, and one of them belongs to a girl named Maya. She appears in your room after your first visit, and she is the character you interact with to make the story move on. She explains to you that the Woman in Black takes people who look at The Diary of Faces, and eventually steals their faces. That’s not very nice now, is it?
From there, you basically try to lift the curse of the diary while trying to help Maya regain her lost memory. You meet other spirits in the game as well, but they mostly try to kill you. Faceless ghosts are not friendly ghosts, after all.
The game is pretty simple. You point your 3DS at the Diary of Faces as the game instructs you to, and the pages change and transform to allow you to solve the next puzzle of the curse. There really isn’t a lot of brainpower needed to beat it, because either Maya or the game’s instructions will tell you what to do. There is a lot of hand holding, and it gets rather repetitive.
The amount of explanatory text really breaks up the game’s flow. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I found myself just pressing the A button to skip through it all. Maya will get on your nerves a bit too. You constantly have to twist and turn to find her, and then press the A button for her to speak to continue the game. She doesn’t say all of the text given, so you do a combination of listening and then reading. It breaks apart the flow here too, and I swear she always decided to appear right behind me so I would have to move and twist after each load. She can almost be compared to Navi or Fi, and restates things to ‘help solve the curse’ that I often skipped.
Another issue I found in the game was with the AR itself. It’s a rather touchy feature, and I could only play in the daytime because my house isn’t very bright at night. I guess it dampens the horror feel to the game too, because if you really want the best out of the AR you need a bright place. I mean, a REALLY bright place. Also, you move around a lot as you search the Diary of Faces. If you lose your connection, you have to re-focus. It only takes a few seconds, but it happens rather often. It shows the limit of the AR.
Some parts of the game have you physically interacting with the Diary of Faces. It’s one of the features that makes it really cool, but at the same time is extremely touchy and frustrating if you block the book too much.
The battles in Spirit Camera are like in the Fatal Frame series. You point the camera at the ghosts as they appear, waiting until key moments to take a picture to inflict the most damage. The battles sometimes differ, but each has a pattern that is easy to learn and doesn’t really give you much of a challenge. I didn’t die a single time in my first run-through.
The battles are kinda neat though. It was really fun to freak out my brother’s girlfriend. I was visiting him, and when he left for class I decided to show the game to her. She didn’t appreciate the deformed figure prancing about her room, moaning and screaming at us.
I didn’t really feel challenged until the final battle of the game, only because it is the longest battle. There is a battle in each chapter of the game, and at the end of each you learn more about curse of the Woman in Black.
I guess I can move from here on to the extra content in the game. You can take pictures of your friend’s faces and battle them as evil spirits, as well as see if there are any nasty spirits haunting them. The extra content mostly uses the Diary of Faces as well, so like I said earlier, DON’T LOSE THAT BOOK.
After beating the game, there are a few unlockable features added in. As well as a more difficult setting, there are new outfits for Maya (she turns blond and wears tight fitting black and red clothes, guys) and a gallery mode that lets you take pictures of the characters in the game. It uses the AR like other games do here. I was surprised to see the extra content, and am halfway through the more difficult setting. It’s not that hard, but I wish I could have chosen it from the beginning.
To conclude this review, I like Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir. It was a great concept, but it could have been done better. I would have liked more freedom to move around the haunted house. I felt confined in the game, since it really solely relied on the AR. A combination of AR and basic game controls could have been blended better.