Dementium II

6.5 Overall Score

Written by on July 27, 2010 in

Dementium II, the sequel to 2007’s Demntium: The Ward, is a bit of an anomaly in that it is somehow unique and derivative at the same time.  It is unique in that it is a FPS/survival horror game made for the Nintendo DS that uses the DS’s specific features and limitations effectively in ways not typical to the system.  At the same time is comes across as derivative in the way it seems to borrow liberally and sometimes wholesale from other noteable games in the genre.  Indeed, Dementium II seems to wear its influences boldly so that it comes across as an amalgamation of the FPS mechanics of the original Half-Life and the dimension shifting horror tactics of the Silent Hill series.

Gameplay

The flashlight becomes necessary in many parts.

The gameplay of Dementium II is that of a basic first-person survival horror game implemented creatively into the DS’s hardware.  While most DS games either use the touch screen or the button controls exclusively Dementium II combines the two together.  The touch screen is used to look around and redirect the player (much like a mouse on a computer) as well as accessing menus and the map  while actual movement and weapon use is regulated to the directional pad and triggers.  The ABXY buttons and right trigger can also be used in exchange for the directional pad for a left handed orientation.  This set up takes a little getting used to but (with the exception of a handful of sometimes frustrating jumping and ducking sequences) works well.

The actual gameplay of Dementium II alternates between a rudimentary FPS with various ballistic and melee weapons and the exploration and simple puzzle solving of a survival horror games.  While melee attacks mostly just involve standing in front of an enemy and swinging until they fall over the gun-play can be a bit more difficult with the floaty nature of aiming with the touch screen, the sometimes questionable hit detection and the general scarcity of  ammunition.  As such a general tactic of ammo conservation and favoring melee weapons is necessary to prevent the player from getting stuck in a bad situation with nothing at their disposal.

Story

The story of Dementium II is a somewhat ambiguous affair.  At the game’s opening the player wakes up in the medical ward of Bright Dawn psychiatric treatment center following some sort of dramatic brain surgery.  After being deposited back in your cell the world suddenly shifts to a nightmarish version of itself with grotesque monsters roaming the building and a convenient gap

Don't disturb the witch.

in door of your cell.  After a bit of exploration the player learns that whatever was taken out during the brain surgery  has taken over one of the doctors and is causing the surroundings to shift between the world of the sane and the nightmarish world of the insane.  Other than these tidbits and a few others the games seems little concerned with explaining what exactly is going on and, instead, favors building a tense and forbidding atmosphere.  To this extent the games ambiguity actually works in the game’s favor and reinforces a sense of disorientation and mystery that can be key to an effective horror game.

While ambiguous in context the general progression of the game follows a simple formula of five chapters (each taking about an hour to complete) involving alternating combat and exploration and culminating in a boss fight at the end of each.  The short chapter set up works well for the portable system but the scarcity of save points can lead to long periods of lost progress and the general shortness of the game leaves something to be desired when all is said and done.

Presentation

The visual presentation of Dementium II is rather impressive considering the limitations of the DS hardware.  Environments are well rendered and atmospheric with special attention given to the lighting effects that likely required not shortage of digital trickery on the developers part.  The enemy character models, though few in variety, are appropriately grotesque and can inspire dread when the player finds themselves low on ammo and in a bad position.

The audio, on the other hand, is more of a mixed bag.  The sound effects are generally well done with individual enemy types each emitting their own unique and sometimes unnerving cries and incidental sound effects being varied and believable.  The musical score, however, falls a bit short with ultimately unremarkable and repetitive background tracks and a battle orchestration that always cues up long before the player spots the enemy effectively killing any element of surprise they may have had.

Verdict

Dementium II is a game not without its problems and issues but overall it is a unique implementation of the survival horror genre on the Nintendo DS and succeeds in more ways than it falls short.  For anyone who is a fan of the genre or wants to see how the DS can be used in a nontypical way Dementium II is worth a look.

Dementium II is rated M for Mature and is available now on store shelves.

A copy of Dementium II was provided to The Married Gamers for the purposes of review and evaluation.

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Author: Tylor Long View all posts by

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