Review: Dementium II (DS)

A demented good time

Dementium II, the sequel to 2007’s Dementium: The Ward, has many characteristics spawning from a mixture of the Resident Evil-style survivor horror sub-genre and a first-person shooter. You control your character in a first-person perspective through many creepy, unsettling locales, but it’s not your ordinary shooter: it has many elements that are seen in your typical Resident Evil or Silent Hill, and the result is mixed. It has a lot of neat technical upsides going for it but often stumbles along the short but challenging 4-hour campaign.

It definitely features a plethora of technical wonder on the Nintendo DS's ageing architecture, something that developer Renegade Kid seems to understand. Running at a brisk 60 frames per second, Dementium II pushes the boundaries of what the DS’s five-year-old technology can handle but that comes at a price: every piece of art, every texture and every enemy design is very generic. There aren’t many varying enemy types so you’ll likely get sick of killing the same bad guys over and over again.

While the visuals are a mix of great tech and bland art, the audio is simply too generic. While it’s doubtful someone would come into Dementium II looking for amazing sound design since the original was similar, it’s definitely an irritating mixture of repeating measures and low quality sound effects.

Luckily the high quality single player campaign is enough to keep you hooked. In fact, the unsettling, surreal and downright scary atmosphere is done tremendously well. Playing a deranged inmate locked in prison with no recollection of what’s going on, you find yourself shifting between alternate dimensions while attempting to uncover a mystery that becomes larger than your typical prison escape. Unfortunately Dementium II features hardly any narrative: you will likely never really know what’s happening, and this can ultimately mar your experience.

The gameplay experience is fun, though. You might not even care about the story or what’s happening; the atmosphere is impressively realised and the controls work particularly well. Like its predecessor you control your movement with the D-Pad (or the face buttons if you’re left handed) while looking and aiming is done completely with the stylus and touchscreen. This makes for some fidgety design choices, though: selecting your weapon or healing yourself is done by pressing different areas of the interface on the touch screen. You could potentially press one of these buttons accidentally while aiming or moving around, making for some troubling times. It’s also disappointing to mention that the game doesn’t feature a D-Pad + Button control style, with no alternative layout for those who don't like the touchscreen.

Dementium II’s campaign is a mixture of puzzle solving and monster slaying. It’s not just a first-person shooter, think of it more as a first-person brawler that feels extremely similar to a Resident Evil game. You will definitely shoot your fair share of bad guys, but your main attack style will be with a knife or hammer. This makes for some interesting combat against some pretty gruesomely designed enemies. Ammo is unsettlingly scarce so you’ll have to decide to use each weapon at the most opportune time.

Sadly the overall feature set is poor: the campaign is a mere four hours in length and can easily be finished in a few sittings. There’s a simple survival mode that unlocks after you beat the game but is, again, very generic: you’ll go through multiple environments where killing the set amount of enemies will unlock the door to a new area, with the idea to get as many kills as you possibly can. It’s not very fun, it features no additional weapons or gameplay elements, and has no online connectivity – no leaderboards, nothing.

For all its problems though, you’ll find yourself hooked. You will sit there sometimes for three hours at a time trying to inch yourself toward the conclusion, often suffering through the cramped hands and hurting wrists because the game is ultimately engaging.

Conclusion

Dementium II is a decent game with lots of interesting elements combined with a surprising amount of impressive technology, but sadly it just comes together in a very bland, uninspired way. The campaign at four hours long is short, but it’s definitely sweet. Renegade Kid made a great first step with the original Dementium, and Dementium II has enough interesting elements to give it a try.