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Dementium: The Ward is too mature for my siblings, but once I acclimatised to its 15 cert thrills I was left hoping for a more substantial game. Let's hope the follow up, Dementium II iterates on the successes rather than reproduces the same experience.
Dementium: The Ward definitely isn't your standard DS fare - it's a first-person shooter with a horror-movie twist. If Silent Hill and Halo had a child, I'm willing to bet that it would look a hell of a lot like Dementium. The games developer, Renegade Kid, certainly haven't targeted to the usual kiddie demographic - instead opting to deliver a dark, and extremely atmospheric shooting experience.
I normally save my DS gaming until late at night, when I'm tucked up in bed - I find it helps me relax and wind down. Some people choose to read a book, where as I choose to game. I'm all about immersion, especially with games like this. So I got into bed, turned off the lights, plugged in some headphones and excitedly fired up my DS. As the game loaded I was met with a message warning me that the game contained "scenes of explicit scenes of violence and gore" - which upon reading I immediately flashed-back to a younger version of myself playing Resident Evil on the PlayStation.
Renegade Kid have done an amazing job at creating a fully 3D world on a somewhat power-limited handheld device. The game engine used is technically stunning, running constantly at a solid 60 frames per second - meaning that the movement is always liquid smooth.
As I nervously advanced down a corridor, a swarm of insects suddenly scuttled towards me.
I awoke in a hospital bed, the room was extremely dimly lit, all I had to help me navigate the blood-splattered ward was a flickering torch. I quickly found a key and exited the room. As I nervously advanced down a corridor, a swarm of insects suddenly scuttled towards me. Shining my torch on them made them scatter. In the distance a huge monster dragged a blood-soaked woman away, she looked up at me, desperately trying to cling on. But in a second she is pulled away into the darkness leaving me all alone with my torch.
Anxiously, I carried on exploring, I soon picked up my first weapon, a baton, which I quickly equipped. In doing so, I had to lower my torch which drastically limited my field of vision. I re-equipped my torch just in time to see a zombie-like creature lurch towards me. I was startled, but managed to quickly switch back to the baton and dispatch of the creature. This was the first of many scares I had with Dementium.
The combat and exploration is broken up with a smattering of puzzles, some of which left me scratching my head for quite some time. They can all be solved logically, which is something a lot of games overlook these days. Still, I would have liked to have seen greater implementation of the stylus and microphone, a la Professor Layton.
My palms were sweaty, and I my heart rate had increased noticeably.
For a handheld title I found myself surprisingly drawn into the game, considering I was only looking a 2.5 inch screen I felt incredibly uneasy and anxious as I explored the dilapidated hospital. My palms were sweaty, and I my heart rate had increased noticeably. At one point during the first hour of game play I physically jumped so much that my DS flew out of my hand. While this was actually because a gust of wind blew my curtain up against my back, I think it serves as a fine example of how unnerved I had become. Let's just say, I definitely wouldn't have been startled had I been playing Phoenix Wright or New Super Mario Bros.
It's not all good news. After a couple hours with Dementium it began to lose its edge. Any sense of tension and fear that I had at the start of the game had now vanished, giving way to boredom and frustration. Now accustomed to the scares the game struggle to keep my interest.
This is where the plot should have taken over, but it is almost none-existent.
This is where the plot should have taken over, but it is almost none-existent, leaving me with no real drive or direction. I spent most of my time wandering aimlessly from room to room, wondering exactly what my objective was, occasionally I would stumble on a newspaper clipping or memo, that would hint at what was going on, but ultimately I was left narratively unsatisfied.
The game also has a terrible check-pointing system, which means death will send you right back to the start of the chapter, undoing any of your previous progression. At first I was willing to forgive this, but in the later stages of the game when dying is a common occurrence it really began to grate on me.
Dementium: The Ward is not without its problems. But on atmosphere and scariness there is nothing close on the Nintendo DS. I like that this is a game too mature for my younger brother, but once I had got passed the 15 rated shocks there wasn't an engaging game to keep me playing.
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