A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir is an augmented reality game targeted at teens and older players. It is filled with scary images and uses the 3DS camera to create the illusion that evil spirits occupy real space in the same room as the player. Players will see some bloody smears, cracked camera lenses, and people with their faces missing (they may appear scratched out in pictures or have their eyes and mouths sewn shut). There is combat, but players fight simply by snapping pictures of their ghostly assailants. Parents need to remember that Nintendo is warning parents not to allow kids age six and under to view the graphics in 3D because that viewing "may cause vision damage." The Nintendo 3DS offers parents the ability to lock out the use of 3D graphics in the system's Parental Controls.
What's it about?
SPIRIT CAMERA: THE CURSED MEMOIR is an augmented reality horror video game that relies on the Nintendo 3DS's cameras and motion sensors to provide an altered perspective of the real world. The game places the player in the shoes of an unnamed protagonist who has just discovered a supernatural camera (the 3DS) and a spooky diary (a 16-page paper booklet that comes with the game). Players learn of an urban legend that suggests that anyone who can see words on the diary's first page will become cursed, fated to lose his or her face. By pointing the magic camera at the pages (meaning the player views the pages through the 3DS screen) hidden messages appear and drawings come to life. Virtual objects are often superimposed upon these pages, including masks, dolls, and hands, and some pages host riddles which, once solved, provide clues concerning the curse's origin. Sometimes a malevolent soul will escape the diary. When this happens players must move the 3DS around (it helps if you play on a spinning office chair) and search the room for them. Snapping a picture at the right time causes evil spirits damage; failing to do so provides them an opening to attack. A few simple camera-based mini-games take the augmented reality concept further, allowing players to see whether spirits are currently hovering around them.
Is it any good?
Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir is one of the more interesting augmented reality games yet to be released. It has some neat and legitimately spooky ideas that work well within the context of the game's story. It's just a shame that the developers didn't focus on expanding the narrative, which lasts only a handful of hours, and delve more deeply into its characters, which are as thin as the paper from which they spawn in the game’s diary. Tales of horror tend to be much more compelling when we actually care about the souls being terrorized.
Another problem is that the battles feel forced. It's as though the designers wedged them in simply because this is a video game, and, well, video games need fights. But that’s not true. Spirit Camera would have been much more immersive had it relied solely on the eerie puzzles and sinister imagery sourced from its creepy diary. Spirit Camera has moments that foretell a fascinating future for augmented reality games, but it leaves the fledgling genre still awaiting a breakout hit.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in media. Do you think that scariness and violence are similar? Does one bother you more than the other?
Families can also discuss augmented reality. Have you ever been fooled, even for a moment, into believing that the virtual objects and creatures in these games are really in our world? How could these games be made even more believable?
- Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
- Subjects: Language & Reading: following directions
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: analyzing evidence, applying information, solving puzzles
Self-Direction: achieving goals
Health & Fitness: movement
- Price: $39.99
- Available online? Not available online
- Developer: Nintendo
- Release date: April 13, 2012
- Genre: Adventure
- Topics: Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- ESRB rating: T for Blood, Violence
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.