Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir Review
Following in the footsteps of Resident Evil Revelations, a new survival horror game has made its way to the Nintendo 3DS. A spinoff of the Fatal Frame series, Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir sticks to familiar territory for the franchise – in other words, ghosts, exorcisms and ancient rituals. It follows the story of a young girl named Maya who lost her memory. She’s somehow gotten herself trapped in the mysterious Diary of Faces (the 16 page AR manual that comes included with the game), and it’s up to you to solve the mystery of the Woman in Black and save both of you from a terrible fate.
The highlight of the game is its innovative use of the 3DS tech. In addition to its AR capabilities, Spirit Camera lets you use the system’s gyroscope technology to spin the 3DS around and view the game’s spirits in the real world. Looking around to find and talk to Maya constitutes the bulk of the experience, as the chilling narrative is largely told by the young girl, as well as by viewing the Diary of Faces with the Camera Obscura (your 3DS camera, in other words) and its different lenses. The atmosphere is the best thing the game has going for it, with great voicework for Maya and haunting sound effects scattered throughout to keep players ill at ease. The story isn’t ground-breaking, and can be a tad predictable, but it serves its purpose well.
With such great ideas, Spirit Camera has a lot going for it. Unfortunately, things fall apart when it comes to actual gameplay. The cool concept simply fails to find any satisfying gameplay application, as the great atmosphere the developers created is barely used. The whole campaign takes only about two or three hours to complete, and there just isn’t much for the player to do during the majority of it. In fact, most of the game comes down to just listening to Maya and observing things that are happening, with a handful of ghost fights in between. The fights themselves don’t take very long and tend to get repetitive. All you do is spin around with your 3DS looking for the violent spirit, then take a picture at just the right moment to inflict damage. It’s fun, but lacks enough variety (or frequency) to really matter.
The experience is minutely extended by a few camera and AR-based mini-games (letting you do things like fight ghosts that are “haunting” your friends or take pictures to see what spirits are hiding in them). For the most part these additions feel tacked on, lacking any real depth or appreciable quality. As a result, Spirit Camera feels more like a downloadable title than a full release. It’s a shame that such an amazing concept was squandered by such a shallow gameplay experience.
One last hurdle – Spirit Camera is a bit inconvenient to play. You have to be in a well-lit area with ample room to move around and a full range of motion, either sitting in a swivel chair or standing so you can spin around quickly and freely. You also ideally need a table nearby to lay the Diary of Faces on. In other words, you won’t be playing this one in a car, on the couch, or even in a dark room (too bad, because that last one would have helped up the fright factor significantly). It’s an unfortunate consequence of the game’s reliance on AR and gyroscope technology, but one that makes it harder to play than it should be.