After the success of their pOp release on both the WiiWare and DSiWare services, Nnooo took a little time to create some unique applications for DSiWare before getting the urge to create another game. Spirit Hunters Inc. Light/Shadow represents not only a return to gaming for the studio, but also their first dip into the augmented reality pool.
I'll be the first to admit that when I was first shown a very early version of Spirit Hunters Inc. back at last year's E3 show, I wasn't sure if there would be enough gameplay ideas to make the whole thing work. But after getting a hands-on demonstration of the game at this year's E3 show, I can safely say that I was wrong and the guys at Nnooo have not only hit on a very engaging idea, they've also surrounded that idea with a wealth of unique gameplay schemes and challenges.
When you first begin the game, you'll be asked to choose your element and then be tossed into the task of hunting down the large lineup of spirits. As you swing your DSi system around, you'll eventually encounter a spirit and then have to tap on it in order to initiate a battle. It's in these battles that the game really shines with its massive degree of attack variety.
During battles, you'll have to work to keep the spirit in front of you onscreen, and depending on how aggressive the spirit is, that can be a rather hefty challenge in and of itself. If the spirit tries to get away, you'll have to use the tracking bars on the left and bottom sides of the screen in order to swing your DSi system around to locate it. Once you've got the spirit on the screen, you can then launch a variety of attacks. Of course, you'll also have to watch out for the spirit's attacks as well, yet another aspect of the game that will force you to balance your strategy between offensive and defensive maneuvers.
The attacks you have at your disposal are displayed along the bottom of the touchscreen. You merely click on the attack you want to use and then launch the attack using the stylus. Once you've used an attack, it will then slowly begin to regenerate on the ability bar, which means you'll have to wait on that particular attack until it's available once again. If you just can't wait, there are other attacks at your disposal that can be used in the meantime. Each attack has its own unique regeneration time and generally the stronger the attack, the longer it will take to become active again.
The controls in the game are extremely intuitive and having to swivel your DSi around in order to locate and track the spirits can be a lot of fun, not to mention wildly challenging. It might be a good idea to move all of the furniture out of your way as when I was playing the game on the E3 show floor, I was spinning around so much that I became a bit dizzy. Luckily the demo was short enough that I didn't hit the floor and force the Nnooo guys to have to pick me up, but it's very easy to get caught up in the battles and not realize how just much you're moving around. It's actually quite an effective workout as well.
Spirit Hunters Inc. Light/Shadow takes the augmented reality technique to new heights with some absolutely amazing design and execution. Not only is there a lot of variation in the hunting and battles, but being able to add weapons to your arsenal and extend challenges to other players online gives the game a surprising amount of depth and replay value. Augmented reality games might be fairly new, but the developers at Nnooo clearly have a solid handle on how to make the most out of the technology and this game is a perfect example of that.
We'd like to thank Nic Watt and Bruce Thompson for taking time out of their busy schedule to allow us to take Spirit Hunters Inc. Light/Shadow for a spin on the E3 show floor.