If hospitals remind you of death, this game’s for you
Ahead in the darkness you can hear the groaning of a chest maw, a zombie-like creature with a gaping mouth in the middle. You can hear your heartbeat quicken as the cockroaches buzzing around your feet take tiny bites out of your health. You rev up the bone saw and charge headfirst into the gore-spattered hallway…
It doesn’t sound like a typical Nintendo DS game, but ever since Metroid Prime Hunters proved that the handheld could power a first person shooter, developer Renegade Kid has made an honest to goodness survival horror game for the DS. Playing as a mysterious stranger who awakens in a bloody and deserted hospital, in Dementium: The Ward you have to solve puzzles, fight monsters, and try to gain insight into what caused the medical mayhem.
Demetium is an M-rated shooter, but unlike the arcade action of Touch The Dead, Dementium has a lot more exploration and puzzle solving. The puzzles are in the typical Resident Evil or Silent Hill style–they don’t always make complete sense but they are often unsettling and have a sort of internal logic. The puzzles often unlock new sections of the hospital like the children’s ward and an eerily silent chapel.
Besides the atmosphere and exploration, which seem nicely done for a DS game, there is a ton of combat in Dementium. Besides cockroaches, chest maws, and ugly slugs called mollusca, there are a few really intimidating boss fights. These fights are tough, and there’s no extra ammo or health around to make them any easier.
If there’s any concern to be had, it’s that the hospital setting can get a bit repetitive, especially for a lengthy game like Dementium. Some of the sound effects, like the heart monitor that constantly reminds you of your health level, could be muted without losing too much atmosphere. And while some of the controls work well, like using just the touch screen for aiming and accessing your inventory, it can be a bit hard to run and gun like in a console FPS. Hitting up twice and holding it to run, for example, is unwieldy when you’re trying to aim at enemies with the stylus at the same time.
But overall, Dementium is surprising in that it manages to capture some of the best parts of a Silent Hill game, like the creepy crawl through monster-filled buildings, with limited ammo and weird puzzles. For a survival horror experience on the DS, Dementium manages to get the tone just right. Now that we’ve seen what can be done, don’t be surprised if other companies try to match Dementium’s scary style. Dementium: The Ward will be available on October 31.