We’ll be honest right from the beginning: this concept thrilled and terrified us at the same time. When we heard about Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir, we loved the concept of the game, but given the typical quality of augmented reality (AR) games, we cringed equally at the thought of playing it.
We’re glad to say that The Cursed Memoir is actually the best augmented reality game we’ve ever played. But there are some caveats that go along with that statement.
A spinoff of Fatal Frame, Spirit Camera delivers yet another horror genre title for the 3DS in less than two months, almost immediately after we got Resident Evil: Revelations a little while back. The storyline is decent, but cheesy at times, and follows a young girl (no surprise there) after she has lost her memory (again, yawn). She gets mysteriously stuck in the Diary of Faces, a physical book that accompanies the game in the box. This book is actually a huge gameplay mechanic and where the game both shines and fails.
The rooms in your house actually become the game world, as Spirit Camera unsurprisingly uses the cameras on the 3DS to generate images atop your real world surroundings. You look around to talk to the main character, Maya, as well as use the camera to “look into” the Diary of Faces. The trouble with the latter use of the camera is actually that you can’t actually get a decent view of anything seeing as the book is creased down the middle. Its not game-breaking by any means, but pulls you out of an otherwise immersive experience.
The gameplay kind of goes downhill from there. The concept is very well executed, but we’re just not sure there was much depth to begin with. See, the way you damage your enemies as you progress through the storyline is by looking through your environment and finding ghosts that happen to appear. You snap pictures of them which somehow magically inflicts damage on them. For a scary game, that’s not exactly the scariest game mechanic. Next time I’m in a creepy cemetery, we’ll make sure to grab our Nikon for protection.
The thing is, the game somehow still makes us happy with its mechanics because it is a fun game at its core, but it gets repetitive, and therefore somewhat stale, very quickly.
Unfortunately, the music is nothing to really speak of, and there’s not a ton of creepiness going on here. It is a portable game after all, and unless your living room is inherently scary, you’re not going to be too messed up after playing this. Add to the fact that you need to be in a relatively well-lit room to see the game work the way it is intended, so you can forget playing at night to up the scare factor.
Also, given the fact that you play through parts of the narrative with the book, you can’t expect to play this one on the bus or in the car.
AR games still haven’t proven themselves, and we’re not sure Spirit Camera is going to be the game to change that. But given what it does accomplish, The Cursed Memoir does have the most unique mechanic we’ve seen in an augmented reality game in a very long time, even if it does feel a little more like a downloadable title than a full retail title.