Tech demos in 3D!
Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir is more of a toy than an actual game. A $40 launch price for something so experimental is insulting, but part of me couldn't help but like it, flaws and all, for at least trying something different. Granted, I should point out that I only paid $15 for the title, which is an augmented reality game wrapped around a ghost story, and a spiritual successor to the Fatal Frame series. But despite the frustrating technical issues, it does capture the feel of those games at times.
Spirit Camera comes shipped with a 'diary' the size of a thin 3DS instruction booklet. As you start the game, you encounter Maya, an amnesiac girl who is just as confused about the origins of the diary as you are, and you discover the truth with her as you complete the game's objectives. Throughout the game, Maya will tell you to aim your 3DS at one of the diary's pages, triggering a scenario where you fight a ghost or play a ghost-themed minigame, and gradually learn about the curse of the diary. This is where the game's main problem lies: You need to be in a well-lit environment for the game to even work. Your 3DS must be able to 'read' the game's diary, and it can get really finicky at scanning pages if the light in your room isn't bright enough. It's a shame really, because Spirit Camera has a decent premise, and it could have been a lot more engaging if the tech was better. I had no trouble using the AR features during daylight, however. Still, for what's it worth, I did get a couple of chills during some of the jump scares the game throws at you, as you will physically turn around and find the image of ghost behind you. It's simple and cheesy, but I feel like there's potential in this kind of thing.
As you'd expect from an AR game, there isn't much deph to the game's mechanics. The ghost combat is reminiscent to the battles in Fatal Frame. You will physically turn around until you find a ghost, and snap a picture at the best time for maximum damage. The rest of the gameplay involves looking at diary pages via different camera lenses, and small challenges like picking out where a ghost is hiding in the diary based on the hints he gives you.
The game is pretty brief (roughly 4 hours), and outside the main story, there are just some AR minigames you can access via the main menu, not unlike the AR cards that came with the 3DS, along with some silly photography apps that will put ghosts in regular pictures you take. There's also a 'new game plus' mode of sorts that has some extra dialog and a new costume for Maya, but you may not even be interested in trying it. Spirit Camera is slightly more of a game than Face Raiders and is definitely NOT worth $40, but I also don't regret my time with it. On the other hand, it is one of those games I can see myself showing off to friends because there isn't much else quite like it, even though I still wish it was a better product. But hey, sometimes I'm more fascinated by a game that takes a risk and stumbles than a game that copies something familiar.