Why are you in this abandoned hospital? Why are these monsters attacking you? Where did they come from? Is it really safe to down 38 bottles of pain killers? Dementium Remastered has few answers for you, but the mystery only enhances its eerie, lonely atmosphere. This new version completely rebuilds the original DS game, sprucing up the visuals and making some extremely helpful difficulty tweaks, but some clunky aspects have also been copied over from the first game.
The bleak, empty halls of the hospital look great in 3D. Renegade Kid did a fantastic job of rebuilding the world, giving the filth and gore a sense of depth that leaves you hesitant to touch anything. The enemies look equally nasty, with their strange wounds and pulsing bodies creating a sense of disgust as you fight them. You'll shoot them so they don't kill you, sure, but also because it'll make their gross bodies go away.
For some reason, the cutscenes aren't rendered in 3D, though. There aren't many in the game so it may not seem to be a big problem, but for people who can't easily focus on 3D, it is. If you have trouble focusing on 3D, the switch from 2D to 3D can be jarring, taking a few moments to readjust your eyes again. Considering these cutscenes often happen before boss fights it's a lousy time to have to do it. It's a shame given the quality of the 3D in this game, but if you have any kind of trouble with it you may want to consider shutting it off.
You won't want anything making combat harder for you. It might not seem all that apparent at the beginning, but Dementium Remastered's enemies are pretty clever, even on the most basic difficulty. There is a good variety of them, many of which can cling to walls and ceilings, approaching you from different angles you might not expect. The hospital's halls offer multiple twists, turns and closets for the enemies to come at you from as well, so finding your enemy is always the first part of the fight.
It doesn't help that it's pitch black all around you. You're given a flashlight early on to see with, which helps, but you can't have it out when you have a weapon equipped. This adds to the tension as you have to choose whether to be able to see or fight, and many of the game's enemies get on top of you in a hurry. Given that they can be just about anywhere, it's risky to go around with just a weapon out, as small enemies can hug a surface that's just out of your range of visibility when your light's off. You need to have that flashlight out when you're looking for your enemies, and then purposely close yourself off in darkness as they draw near. It makes for stressful combat, which works well with the creepy atmosphere Renegade Kid is shooting for.
You can listen for the enemies to draw near, which helps. Each enemy has a distinct sound it makes, so once you've fought them a time or two and learned their behaviour you'll know where to look for them. The trouble here is that, besides the most basic enemy, every monster cry is extremely irritating. The weird, baby-like cries of the worms and the shrill screams of the floating heads are awful, in our opinion, and will leave you wanting to turn that volume down. The sounds are piercing to the point of being painful in places, but if you want to know what's coming out of the darkness you'll need to leave that sound on. While they were remaking the levels it would have been nice to have some new sounds for the monsters.
The rest of the game's music is quite nice, at least adding something pleasant to listen to. The title theme, a melancholy piano track, sets the bizarre mood perfectly, as do many of the other songs that play throughout your adventure. These songs capture a feeling of loneliness as you play, but there's something odd about them that works with the strange events that have left you in a hospital filled with shrieking, flying heads.
Fighting those heads is pretty smooth, given the control scheme. The default scheme on a standard 3DS allows players to walk using the left stick, shoot/melee with the L button, and look around using the stylus. It works extremely well, given that you can just move your stylus around the bottom screen until you're looking at whatever you want to hit or walk towards on the top screen. If that's not all that comfortable for you, you can use the face buttons to guide yourself around, although holding X to look up or B to look down can be pretty imprecise. That doesn't help when you're trying to aim at something that's rushing you in the dark, so the stylus control scheme is recommended. Overall, though, it's very comfortable to shoot and move, and dual stick aiming is an option using the Circle Pad Pro or the c-stick on a New 3DS.
The only problem with the standard controls shows up when you need to switch between your weapons/flashlight. Weapon switching is mapped to the D-Pad, and that never changes no matter which of the game's control schemes you choose. Hitting left or right cycles through your available weapons in order, hitting down will always bring up your flashlight, and hitting up will bring up the last weapon you had out before you brought out the light.
It would be a solid setup if it weren't for the D-Pad's position on the 3DS. No matter what, you have to take your hand off of movement controls in some way to bring out a weapon or turn on your light. This can be a problem when you get surprise attacked or find you need a more powerful weapon, as enemies move fast and chew through your health once they start attacking. You really want to be able to run and dodge at these times while getting out a different weapon, but that's just not possible with this control scheme. There is another way to swap between weapons and the flashlight, although you may miss it if you're clicking around in a hurry. If you tap on the image of your weapon at the bottom of the touch screen you'll pause the game and bring up a weapon select. This does resolve the problem of having to switch between weapons in combat, but you do have to have a very good idea of where the image is in order to tap on it properly without taking your eyes off the top screen. It's a decent size, but can be easily missed when you're panicked from being attacked. [This detail on the touchscreen icon was added shortly after original publication]
The game tries to fix this by being extremely generous with health (although less so on higher difficulties). There are pill bottles everywhere, and each will restore two points on your ten-point life bar. You might take a lot of hits, but you can heal a lot, too. The same goes for ammo, so if you're having a hard time hitting the enemies while cycling through weapons, at least there's a lot of ammo kicking around to refill it. The game has also added save points, so you can manually save if you find you're doing well (which is a big deal, if you played the original).
Another great change is that enemies don't respawn. Given that a lot of the game involves wandering, you tend to accidentally end up in areas you've already cleared. In the original this meant fighting more monsters and quickly eating through what seemed to be generous supplies of ammo and health. Now, it's a bit more balanced since the enemies you kill don't come back, leaving you with safe routes to return to should you get hurt later.
Of all the things that got fixed, boss difficulty was not one of them. The bosses in Dementium Remastered are relentless, and likely where you'll be spending the bulk of your game play time (even though there's only 6 of them). The manual saves mean you no longer have to repeat huge gameplay chunks to reach them, which is nice, but they're still brutal. They require very precise movements to beat, and as comfortable as the 3DS movement controls are, they don't seem quite up to what is required to keep from getting hit by these creatures.
That happens because viewing distance, which was used to create tension before when health and ammo were plentiful, is now a problem. The game does make it so you can see a little farther during these fights, but even so, the bosses often still move far out of sight. Your targeting reticle will turn red if you aim at them, even if you can't see them, but this doesn't help much. The bosses can see you just fine, though, and can attack at ranges where you don't even know where they are. They get frustrating as a result, and while you can come up with tactics that will get you through, luck seems to be more important than skill in these fights.
Dementium Remastered is a solid re-release. It makes some great changes that help make the game smoother to play and balances out the difficulty from the DS original; it also adds some nice visuals that add a lot of appeal to exploring the old hospital again. Still, the boss difficulty, weapon switching and sounds can be irritating, leaving in some of the problems from the original. Still, if you can endure its quirks Dementium Remastered is a strong horror shooter on the system, with fun combat and a tense atmosphere combining well.