What it's not is perfect. Of course, no game is, but Dementium is peppered with a few looming frustrations that bring down the game experience. It is developer Renegade Kid's first effort, and at times it shows, and it's a somewhat clichéd game from a genre built on the power of cliché. The good news is that none of those frustrations are terribly huge. The bad news, however, is that some of those flaws may be just the sort that keep certain types of gamers away.
Gallery: Dementium: The Ward
Dementium: The Ward opens with a chaotic montage that leaves you alone -- or so you think -- in a hospital. Once you step into the hall, it's clear that some extreme badness has been going on while you were out, but unfortunately, you are clueless ... and weaponless. Both of these things are doubleplusungood, but luckily for you, at least one of them is remedied pretty quickly.
The first chapter serves as an introduction of sorts. You find some helpful goodies (including the flashlight you should always have equipped when you are not actively fighting), deal with your first puzzle, and face your first enemies. You also get more than a few hints of some of the horrors to come, including a quick clip of a guy you're pretty sure you don't want to face ... at least until you find something a hell of a lot better than your first weapon, which is a nightstick. Like, a rocket launcher would be good, or a crate of grenades. Unfortunately, there's not one just lying about in a supply closet. At least you find a lot of medicine to replenish your health!
Once you learn to navigate and explore, the game moves quickly into Chapter Two. Chapters come and go at various places; you never quite know how long the next one will be. And here is where the biggest issue (for most people; not so much for this reviewer) comes in: the save system is chapter-dependent. When you die, you restart from the beginning of that chapter, which means you have to fight your way back to where you were. While I found that this added a much-needed layer of difficulty to the game, many people have found it extraordinarily annoying. Your mileage may vary.
The biggest issue I, personally, had with navigating The Ward is much, much simpler: the sheer number of empty, useless areas. I like to explore everything, every nook and cranny, because you just never know what you might miss. Unfortunately, there's a lot of wasted space here, and a lot of things you just can't interact with. Of course, on a DS cart, there's limited space -- and here, it was put into creating an atmospheric wonder -- but it left things feeling a little empty at times. The fun of exploration quickly evaporated ... but the game offers enough to almost make up for it.
Dementium is really all about balance. The game is short, but beautiful. It's not too difficult, but certain parts are brutal. It is deeply terrifying at moments, but the audio cues that signify the presence of monsters takes away a little of the fun factor of surprise. Overall, it is more than worth the play experience, but the developers are clearly still finding their way, despite an effort that should be lauded by DS owners everywhere. It's easy to recommend ... but the recommendation comes with caution.
The basics (or, the review is in the details):
Controls: Anyone who's been paying attention when I've been around on Game Nights knows that I, personally, hate Metroid Prime Hunters with a deep and abiding passion. I hate it. I appreciate the concept, I wish I loved it, but in practice, I find the controls a nightmare. Dementium is similar -- but since the game isn't as frenetic, it's a lot easier to handle the controls this time around. The developers clearly recognized, however, that it's not the most comfy scheme ever -- they included "comfort" tips in the manual! Despite any latent carpal tunnel issues, however, the controls here work really well, but they do take a little getting used to. Fortunately, the first chapter is incredibly easy, and you have lots of time to orient yourself before your abilities are tested.
Visuals: Overall, Dementium really shines here. The heart-pounding cutscenes are above and beyond what we usually expect from the DS, especially in a game like this. Monster design is a little uneven, however, with some that look fabulous, and others that seem to lack much real detail. Also, sometimes things are a little jagged around the edges, but usually, you're so wrapped in making sure nothing is busily kicking your ass that you won't even notice.
Sound: Simply awesome. Dig out your headphones, because you'll want to appreciate every scrap of audio here.
Story: Hey, you're a guy in a hospital, and you have no idea what's going on! Look, there are all these horrible creatures that want to eat your face! Haven't we been here before? It's called survival horror, and yes, we have. Dementium isn't really breaking new ground, but neither are most horror titles. We love them anyway, and even the clichéd moments are handled well here -- particularly in terms of the cutscenes.
Difficulty: Here, Dementium suffers a little. Not only is it short, but it just isn't very challenging, either. This is the main reason why I, personally, am not fussed over the save system -- it adds a need to get through things with skill and style. Enemies tend to be pretty predictable. The first time you encounter a certain type (if you haven't read our strategy guide), you can be a little thrown, but you quickly pick up the best way to handle them. The puzzles aren't much of a challenge, either. So when the game expects you to play through a chapter and get it right, it isn't that onerous ... but it can be a bit frustrating at times.
Final verdict: 8.0/10. While it may be flawed, Dementium is still a shining example of what the DS is capable of, and we hope more developers take a cue from Renegade Kid. Let's push the envelope, guys!
Reader Comments (Page 1 of 1)
11-13-2007 @ 3:30AM
I loved it. Not because it's the best game in the world, but because it's such a different experience. And we all need to support third party games that try new things.
The music and sound are things I'll remember most. The atmosphere was done well and it was truly a bit scary to play at times. Maybe it's the fact that an enemy can lurk around any corner and when you do run into one unexpectedly, it can really freak you out.
That being said, I couldn't beat the last boss and eventually gave up because you can't save during the last level and have to trudge through five minutes of repetitive crap just to be killed again and again.
So, what was the ending, anyone? And Why Did You Do It?
11-13-2007 @ 5:19AM
It is really repetitive. Same corridor, same zombie, same closet, same this, same that. And after seeing A.S.H. with its 2 gigabit card, I doubt that any DS game can be really limited by size. The start of the game felt really good; with all the blood on the walls and the fact that you can't see a meter ahead of you and that you were just dragged in there by something. But when you find the nightstick and the flashlight the suck starts. It had its nice moments, but it was just mostly boring overall. I don't see how you can get scared from images in a 3" screen anyway. Maybe if you play it in the dark with headphones on in an abandoned house on a hill..
11-13-2007 @ 8:03AM
Jak Logan said...
I _just_ beat it... try moving backwards while shooting on the final boss. Headshots work best, and shoot only when the boss is not blinking red. But I have to say, this game is more about the experience of playing, not the storyline. The ending is on youtube, and you definitely won't be missing out on anything by watching it because you can't save after beating the game anyway.
And what game is A.S.H.? Speaking of large games, I heard Dragon Quest IX was going to be on 2 DS cartridges, how big is that game I wonder?
11-13-2007 @ 8:23AM
So far I like it a lot. It's taking me so long to get through it because after a couple of tries on the same level I have to put it down. I can only repeat a level so many times before I get really bored. At the very least a checkpoint before a boss would have playing it infinitely more fun.
It's definitely cool though.
11-13-2007 @ 9:57AM
darklink (NDF - n00b ring) said...
I'm on the fence with buying this game.
11-13-2007 @ 11:07AM
The save system ruined the game for me.
Maybe the game would have been too easy without having to repeat every chapter every time you die - but that's not a fun sort of difficult.
It's a repetitive, tedious, artificial sort of difficult that makes you want to throw your DS.
Here is an example:
The final boss is pretty hard. He killed me about seven or eight times before I got him. However, in order to get to him you'll have to battle through a 10 minute level over and over again. Every time he kills you - you have to do those same 10 minutes over again. That's just not fun.
11-13-2007 @ 11:11AM
Jak Logan said...
I would definitely wait if you're into making the most out of your games. I beat this game in one night, with no possibility for replay value. There is literally no storyline at all. It is the only horror type game on the DS though, and it is engrossing if you play it at night with headphones. But I think there are much better games coming out that are worth a brand new purchase. (FFXII, UMK3, or Mario Party maybe?) Rent it if you can. That's my two cents though.
11-13-2007 @ 12:06PM
the save system was weird but perfect review.....definantly worth playing (if you have the time and commitment)and like survival horror....it does become all too repetitive at times and im halfway through the game and i wonder how important some of the puzzles are....i passed up a few and made it to 3 chapters later??....overall good review just about right on.....