Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir

Spiritual Successor To Fatal Frame Horrifies For All The Wrong Reasons
by Bryan Vore on Apr 12, 2012 at 06:21 AM
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Koei Tecmo
Rating: Teen
Reviewed on: 3DS

The Fatal Frame series has always been about battling ghosts with your camera, so when Tecmo Koei decided to use the real cameras on the 3DS to fight virtual ghosts, it sounded like a great match. After putting up with Spirit Camera’s many hassles, it’s clear that the reality just hasn’t caught up with the concept.

At the start of the story, the player receives a mysterious item called the Diary of Faces and decides to look through its pages with the mystical Camera Obscura. The game includes a real paper diary full of spooky imagery that triggers augmented reality content via the 3DS camera.  Throughout the campaign, you see the pages morph in strange ways, battle spirits floating around your living room, and chat with a ghostly guide named Maya. The goal is to stop the Woman in Black, who is stealing people’s faces. A creepy tone effectively carries the story, though its predictability lessens the impact.

At its best, Spirit Camera has some interesting boss fights, an amusing riddle sequence that has you flipping through the diary for specific images, and a few unique puzzles. Unfortunately, those scattered bright spots are washed out in the face of severe technical issues.

In order to get Spirit Camera working, I had to dig a lamp out of a back room to shine on the diary, and even then the AR functionality would error out from time to time. I was glad I already had a swivel chair, because I was constantly scanning the diary and spinning around to talk to Maya all the time. Unlike the AR cards that come with the 3DS, the diary’s pages won’t lay flat, so you constantly have to pin them down in a way that doesn’t block the images from the camera.

As I spun around quickly in my chair to spot and take pictures of ghosts, nausea occasionally sunk in (depending on how fast the enemy moved). You can also stand and spin around, but you have to stick close to a flat surface for regular diary interaction. Don’t even try to play this if your 3DS needs a charge; being tethered to an outlet makes this motion-dependent game unplayable. If it’s not already evident, Spirit Camera should only be played at home due to the elaborate setup necessary and wild motions you have to perform.

I was thankful that this experience didn’t last over three hours total, but players who paid money for it might not be as pleased. Spirit Camera has some extras to check out, but most of them involve repacking campaign content or taking photos with silly ghosts inserted into them. You can always play through a harder version of the campaign with added text and a cute new outfit for Maya, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir cover
Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir

Spiritual successor to Fatal Frame horrifies for all the wrong reasons.

Game Informer's Review System
Concept Attempt to make a full game using the 3DS’ unruly AR functionality
Graphics Due to the low-quality cameras, the real-world backgrounds appearing in most of the game look grainy and blurry
Sound For some reason, your guide only voices every third line or so
Playability To experience this game properly you’re going to have to jump through an absurd amount of hoops. Don’t even think about playing it on the go
Entertainment Interesting concepts are undercut by technological limitations and an extremely short campaign
Replay Moderately Low