By Dan Zuccarelli . November 12, 2007 . 8:14pm
I always appreciate when a company takes a much-needed new direction on a platform. So far for the DS we haven't had many survival horror type games, and even less "M" rated games. Renegade Kid decided to check off both columns with the hospital turned nightmare game, Dementium: The Ward.
It's certainly a departure from the typical DS fare, no brain, eye, etc training here. Just touch-screen survival. But is this game scary enough for you to let yourself be admitted for an extended stay, or are you better off with just a quick out-patient visit?
Easy set-up. You wake up in a hospital, no idea how you got there and blood covering everything. You find a piece of paper with "Why did you do it?" written on it. And that's about it. You really aren't given any direction about where you're supposed to go but since there's blood everywhere the immediate answer is obvious, you want to be anywhere except where you are now.
This lack of direction actually plays perfectly into the mood of the game. It's disorienting to say the least, but let's your mind fill in the blanks as to what could've possibly happened to this hospital. I mean there's blood EVERYWHERE, and file cabinets, beds, and debris thrown everywhere.
Adding to the uneasiness is a wonderfully minimal score playing in the background and the sound of your own heartbeat. The heartbeat thing does get old eventually so it's a godsend that they let you turn it off after a while though.
You control yourself using the D-pad (the the buttons in leiu of the d-pad if you're left handed like me) to move your feet. You main uses the stylus on the touch screen to control both where you're looking and your aim. It acutally works really well because all the action is on the top screen, so your hands do get in the way of being able to see (Phantom Hourglass, I'm looking at you).
The 3-D effect of you walking down hallways and through doors is really fantastic considering the DS's hardware. It feels like they're pushing the unit to really squeeze out some stellar 3-D. It's very well done and deserves a lot of credit.
I've run into this control scheme before, and while I do like it I also have a few major problems with it. Nothing against Renegade Kid, but when players who are left handed are at a disadvantage because using the buttons as a makeshift d-pad simply doesn't work well. I don't think there's anyway around it. So while it only effects a few of us out there, it's something to consider.
Of course while I enjoyed the atmosphere of the game, there were a few problems I had with it that stops this from being a "Hey! Buy this right away!" kind of title.
First and foremost is the weapon system. Early on in the game you acquire a flashlight to help you see. The game is so dark that you pretty much need it all the time. Only problem is that when you pull out your nightstick of handgun, you put the flashlight away. This forces you to only have one available at a time and it's beyonf aggravating. Seriously if you were trapped in a blood soaked hospital fighting demons to try and escape with your life, wouldn't it occur to you to hold the gun in one hand and the flashlight in the other? Doom 3 had the same problem and it ruined the game for me and I never got more than 30 minutes in. This isn't as bad cause you can see a bit without the flashlight, but the guy has two hands, why won't he use them????
Secondly is the save system, or rather the lack thereof. I'm currently at what can only be called a "boss" battle. Now I died fighting him, which is no big deal. Problem is the game put me back about a half hour. I was peeved but pressed forward. After 30 minutes or so I reached the boss again. I saved before going though the door to start the fight. Once again I was killed and had to restart the chapter… which I started about 30 minutes worth of play time ago. Do I really need to play though this section again and again to reach (and potentially be killed by) some boss?
I checked out some online forums and it looks like that may be the case. If that's true that might be a potential deal breaker. The game ceases to be scary when you know exactly what's going to happen since you're playing HUGE chunks over and over. I'm hoping to find a way around this, cause I really want to keep playing the game… it's a shame it doesn't seem to want to let me.