Dementium: The Ward Review

It’s hard to believe that Metroid Prime Hunters released almost two years ago and despite its flawless controls, there haven’t been many (if any) decent attempts by developers at releasing a first-person shooter game since then on DS. NST, who created Hunters, hit the nail on the head with the innovative touch-screen controls, expansive worlds and fantastic graphics, all surrounded by a Quake-like FPS feel. Luckily for us, there’s a new developer on the block that decided to take control of the mobile FPS experience; Renegade Kid brings us the portable horror-survival game Dementium: The Ward.

Dementium: The Ward starts out with a mysterious sequence, showing your character entering a hospital room, then quickly hands the controls over to you to figure out the rest. There’s no initial storyline, no background, and seemingly no reason that you’re in the hospital; but at this point it’s kill or be killed. Your character starts off with a simple flashlight, which is used in the same way as Doom 3. When you eventually grab a few weapons, you’re forced to quickly change between your light and your gun, as you can only utilize your right hand throughout the game. Unfortunately, you can’t even swing your flashlight as a makeshift weapon to put down even the smallest enemies, so it’s a constant battle between lighting your path ahead versus fighting in the dark. And, oh, it’s dark.

When your flashlight is turned off, your character can see roughly five feet ahead, but when you shine that sucker in front of you, it lights up the immediate space you’re in as well as anything as far as the eye can see. The textures, while a bit repetitive, are crisp and creepy. Blood, gore, filth and everything that’ll make your stomach turn is packed into every inch of Dementium, which really sets the mood. The character models for the various zombies and creatures of Hell are inventive and work great with the visual style. Renegade Kid really did an incredible job of pushing the DS to its graphical limits all while maintaining a consistently smooth framerate.

Like Hunters, Dementium uses touch-controls to for aiming with small icons surrounding the edges of the bottom screen, which are used for weapon changing. I have to admit, Dementium’s controls have even improved upon Prime’s DS style, allowing for extremely accurate shooting in the most fast-paced situations. Besides the primary controls, the bottom screen is also used to display your health, ammo, and has pull-up menus for items, maps, and a notebook. The notebook feature is similar to that of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass’s. Throughout the game, you’re given clues and hints that are later needed to attain certain items and continue through the hospital, so it’s nice of the developers to throw in a notebook.

But the one major drawback Dementium suffers from is the way your save your progress. Instead of being able to save and restart at any point in the game (like Half-Life 2, for example), you’re forced to begin the chapter you’re in from the start if you die at any point. Each chapter lasts anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, and many feature boss battles (that you certainly won’t pass on your first try) at the end. This means, after surviving through hoards of enemies, collecting keys and getting new weapons, if you die near the end, you’ll have to sit through all of it again. A few boss battles are so tough, I had to play through them three or four times, which added an unwanted two hours to my gameplay total.

While Dementium features puzzles similar to Resident Evil, it seems like the main focus is on running and gunning. Some might complain that the entirety of the game is a bit too linear, but I consider this a blessing in disguise. Now, like I said before, Dementium has some incredible portable graphics, but that little DS cart has a finite amount of space, so the majority of the game looks the same. Thankfully, you don’t need to do an extreme amount of backtracking and exploring, otherwise you’d find yourself getting lost quite easily. (I’d say that this is a fair time to mention that the map function is just crap. Really, it’s awful.)

You definitely need to play this game with some nice, big headphones because the audio absolutely sets the mood. It’s creepy, it’s defined, and it makes you just uncomfortable enough to keep you feeling uneasy, while not being cheesy. (I swear, that sentence wasn’t written like that on purpose.) Each enemy has its own distinct sound, so even when your flashlight is turned off, you know what’s ahead. The music is mainly comprised of a slightly out-of-tune piano playing eerie melodies that change depending on what room of the hospital you enter. Everything is tied together nicely with a well-done faux surround sound system that allows you to audibly pinpoint enemies, even in the dark.

Dementium: The Ward isn’t a perfect portable shooter, but it’s certainly a damn good one. You’re looking at around eight to ten hours of solid gameplay, unless of course you continually die at boss battles. Unfortunately, we haven’t been blessed with enough good DS FPS games, but Dementium certainly is a welcomed edition to the DS library. If you’re the type of gamer who likes mixing survival horror with first-person controls, Renegade Kid developed this title for you. At this point, we can only hope that other developers follow in their footsteps and bring us even more FPS love.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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