Dementium II Preview

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Fans of horror titles generally have a smaller set of options on handheld consoles than on home videogame machines. While most videogame horror (including the illustrious Silent Hill franchise) falls flat when going portable, newcomer Renegade Kid managed to produce a fresh and enjoyable, though still flawed FPS horror experience on the Nintendo DS with Dementium: The Ward back in 2007. In April, publisher Southpeak Games hopes to improve upon that formula with Dementium II.

Behind closed doors at PAX East, I had the opportunity to get my hands on the sequel, which maintains most of the mechanics of the first game, but corrects many of the problems highlighted by critics and the gaming community. For those unfamiliar with Dementium games, the first-person look control is managed with the DS stylus on the lower screen, which now displays a map of the current area at all times, as well as health information. Movement is assigned to the system’s directional pad, with a double-tap of any direction sending the protagonist into a run. Attacks are executed with the L button. Controls for jumping, ducking, and accessing items exist as virtual buttons on the DS touch screen.

The game focuses on atmosphere, putting players in dark and foreboding 3D environments and pitting them against warped monsters who hope to leave each one as just another of the many blood stains throughout the narrow corridors. Players won’t be restricted to a single psychiatric ward this time, but will explore a variety of locations throughout the game. Adding to the creep factor are a number of unidentified torture victims at various points throughout the levels, such as the poor soul I encountered who had a chain being slowly drawn from the floor to the ceiling THROUGH HIS CHEST. Enemies are equally twisted, like the gaping-chest-maw things I killed a few times before reaching the semi-terrifying, hook-footed, skinless, zombie-lion-looking boss character rounding out my play session.

Dementium II  Dementium II

I say semi-terrifying because the monster wasn’t actually scary, but was very difficult to defeat, and therefore mildly frightening, thanks to an unfortunate discrepancy between player and AI agility and mobility. I failed and was ridiculed by friends and colleagues after using up all of the health items I had collected throughout the level. Combat seems to suffer slightly, at least in melee situations, from a limited range and finicky hit detection. I didn’t get the chance to grab any firearms, but obviously these problems won’t carry over to that range of combat. One large improvement is the ability to wield a single-handed weapon with a flashlight in the off hand, a feature that was sorely missed in the first game.

For those who are familiar with the first game, yes, the save system has been fixed. Dementium II now features both auto and manual saving.

While a short demo, my time with Dementium II left me interested in seeing more. The sequel does address the main problems of the first game, and its action-based, first-person control scheme fits the DS well. What remains to be seen, when the game hits stores on April 20, is whether it can dial up the actual horror and make the genre relevant in the handheld arena.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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