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Nintendo 3DS Review: Spirit Camera

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Included with Spirit Camera is an augmented reality book, splattered with ink, unnerving photographs, and illegible text. Despite this, the creator took the time to avoid the bottom corners on each page, ensuring they are (clearly) sequentially numbered. It’s a sign either the demons the book spawns appreciate their artistic endeavors or have too much time on their hands.

Nothing in this loosely connected entry into the Fatal Frame series contributes to the atmosphere it thinks it has. Opening the case lets loose a room filling odor of mildewed trees and musty paper, whatever thick grade of stock used to piece together the AR book significant in its ability to suffocate those sensitive types. That’s more horrifying than anything in-game.

Somewhere in the product line Spirit Camera showed signs of life, a little ironic since it’s about the undead, but let’s look past that. As an idea, it’s sound. In terms of execution, the hardware isn’t there, and neither is your place of residence, unless that’s in a dank, brightly lit alleyway. That’s sort of the kicker: Spirit Camera needs Hollywood level lighting to function. That creates a trio of concerns, from extensive reflections on the screen, hard to see images due to the light, and nonsensical environments for horror.

It’s sort of like Freddy Krueger bringing his victims to a well lit playground full of colorful flowers. It doesn’t work, only in this case, the ghastly spirits are after your DVDs. Oh god, don’t attack Gossip Girl: Season 1, Mr. Spirit!

The 3DS plays the gimmick of the Camera Obscura, quite possibly the world’s most innocently backfiring garage sale find ever. It even came with the book according to the convoluted narrative, one that can impressively warp, bend, and do other stuff as long as it’s in view of the lens. If there is an illusion, it shatters whenever the lighting is imperfect or the camera slips the page out of frame. Since it bends fiercely at the center fold, it’s harder than you think. It’s arduous battling hell spawns that come from the book itself, trying to line up charged shots from the Obscura.

Then again, couldn’t one just close the book, burn it, and call the whole thing a sham?

But no, despite having zero talent as a photographer, you’re gunning to gain all you can for your $40, and thus enter into a grand mystery of missing people and picture taking. Spirit Camera likes to force the issue, spawning ghouls behind the player because that makes more sense in a public, portable situation. The 3DS is supposed to be portable right? One can imagine an eight-year old wandering the grand halls of Burger King seeking his next spirit.

“Combat,” which is a word utilized here because the thesaurus didn’t bring up anything snarky enough otherwise, feels arduous. Hand holding breaks any sense of tension as ghosts are spawned to life with the aid on-screen arrows. It’s hard to miss their location or be surprised with that mechanic. Holding the lens firmly ensures a powerful image capture, enough to send the baddie reeling, and hopefully end both its (and your own) misery faster.

A slew of mini-games are less intuitive than the ones already residing on the 3DS itself, and yes, that includes the ones that do nothing but spawn static three dimensional images of Nintendo characters. The kicker is that Nintendo saw little or no value in the concept and gave it away as a bonus. That doesn’t say much for Koei/Tecmo.

Spirit Camera is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Blood, Violence.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.