The Game: Spirit Camera: the Cursed Memoir
Developer: Tecmo Koei
Genre: Augmented Reality Experience
Describe This Game in Three Words: Gimmicky, Awkward, Terrifying
Plot Synopsis: After you receive a mysterious diary, you become the center of a paranormal battle being waged in a creepy old house and right in your own home using the 3DS camera. The price for failure is having your face stolen.
Up Up: Ghosts scare the ever-loving crap out of me. I've never even gone to see the face in Galveston or the train tracks where dead children will move your car because I, unlike the rest of you, know when to leave well enough alone when it comes to the spirits. Spirit Camera is an amazing experience when it comes to immersing you as close as you'll ever get to being in one of the Ju-on films.
Your treks through the haunted house are terrifying. You'll hear a sudden noise and whip around to see mysteriously moved or broken objects. Turn back around and you'll catch a glimpse of sinister shades moving just out of eye line.
And that's nothing compared to the freak-out that happens when viewing your own home through the camera obscura's lens. The booklet that comes with the game changes when seen through the camera, even to the point of imposing your own face on the pages then promptly showing you with your features ripped off. Ghosts attack you from all sides, and you have to actually move around looking for them.
For me the ultimate scare was the masked ghost of a small boy who upped the terror considerably by attacking you without warning from the ceiling. I swear I screamed out loud like a little girl. No game has ever been quite this unnerving.
Down, Down: The plot moves at the speed of a dial-up modem, and you spend hours talking over and over again to Maya, a girl you save from the diary. She repeats herself more than Rob Zombie using the word "Yeah."
Even though the technology is light-years better than the similarly themed Hidden, there are still some real pains in the controls. You'd better have every light in the house on. Not to keep away the shivers, but because the camera won't otherwise be able to recognize images in the diary. I ended up playing 90 percent of the game in the bathroom as it was the only room with enough light.
The companion book that you use to play the game itself is a mixed bag. On one hand it's a brilliant idea that I haven't seen anything like since Dr. J's letter in Startropics. However, holding it in one hand and the 3DS in the other gets old fast. The best thing to do is find a well-lit, flat space to put it down on and hover over the pages.
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Finally, some of the fights can be awkward to the point of frustration. The second fight against the white hands that emerge from the diary comes to mind. I spent a solid hour trying to find the right combination of light, position and timing in order to simply see the damn thing, let alone kill it
Left, Right, Left, Right: Wait, isn't a camera obscura actually a..? Yes, it has nothing to do with ghosts or spirit photography. In fact, there isn't even film in a camera obscura, and since double exposure is pretty much the whole method of tricking people into believing that there are ghosts in a picture, it's doubly incorrect. It sounds creepy, though. Go with it.
B, A: The game does show some amazing possibilities with the 3DS. Personally, I think it's proof that Nintendo should try and buy up the old MacVenture titles and try to update them on the system. 7th Guest at least would be killer armed with all the bells and whistles that accompany Spirit Camera.
Start?: Spirit Camera isn't really a video game. It's a gimmick you play like a video game. If you have a 3DS and you'd like to be uncomfortably close to the uncanny, I would highly recommend taking it for a spin. It's an oddity, not an adventure. Keep that in mind.