Review: Dementium II (Nintendo DS)
by Branden Chowen on May 27, 2010

Dementium II
Publisher: SouthPeak Games
Developer: Renegade Kid
Genre: Survival Horror/First Person Shooter
Release Date: 05/04/2010

If I were forced to pinpoint one title that got me hooked on video games, my answer would have to be Resident Evil for the original Sony Playstation. I used to stay awake all hours of the night watching my uncle play through the game, getting the hell scared out of me by dogs, crows, crocodiles, and – my favorite part – zombies. I would be the guy with the strategy guide telling him where to go as he made his way through the scariest mansion I have still ever seen. Resident Evil combined my growing interest in video games with my love for horror movies: it was the survival horror genre redefined.

Renegade Kid’s (who created another Nintendo DS first person shooter entitled Moon) latest title, Dementium II is a sequel to their first release, Dementium: The Ward. Both games are survival horror/first person shooter hybrids that try to scare the player into submission. It’s this desire to be scared by my choices of media – be it movies, video games, or books – that has brought me to review Dementium II.

With the host of problems in Dementium: The Ward, will the second title in the series be another miss, or can Renegade Kid redeem themselves, and extend the Dementium canon to a third installment, or more, with a hit?

Story

It is rare to find a game in the survival horror genre that doesn’t at least tell an interesting story of some sort. Look at Resident Evil: it has sparked so many sequels and spin-offs, movie scripts, comic books, and novels that some may argue the setting has been overused. Dementium II will never suffer that same, bittersweet fate. The story is frail, and only barely coherent (much like the first Dementium from Renegade Kid, according to Alex Lucard).

The main playable character is William Redmoor, who has returned from the first game. He awakens from a five-week coma after brain surgery by the doctor (who is never named); Phase Two has begun, and, as Redmoor, the player tries to find out what has happened to himself, his daughter, his wife, and what the doctor’s goals are. This sounds interesting enough, but the story is never progressed. At all. Even after finishing the game, I do not know the answer to even one of those questions, and more questions have arisen. It is obvious that Renegade Kid is building the Dementium series up to another sequel, which will hopefully come sooner rather than later, to finally conclude the story they are trying to weave.

Aside from the main story mode of Dementium II the player can unlock Survival Mode. As they complete each of the game’s five chapters, a new wave of the Survival Mode is added. Survival Mode in Dementium II is no different than most of the Survival Modes in other games – the player takes on swarms of enemies as they try to make their way through different waves, ending with a boss at the end of each wave. This could be fun for someone who enjoys killing the same enemies over and over again, but I found it incredibly repetitive, and that it added little to the core experience.

Gamers looking for an engrossing story will need to look elsewhere as Dementium II fails to deliver on that front. Other than the voice of the doctor breaking in over the loudspeaker system of the hospital, periodically giving some insight into his personality, there is little substance here. Renegade Kid has set up this story to conclude over a number of games, but looking at Dementium II as a stand-alone title, it is impossible to find a cohesive story.

Story Rating: Dreadful

Graphics

There are few times I am impressed graphically when it comes to the Nintendo DS, but Dementium II is one of those times. There is an incredible amount of detail in the different environments, which helped to immerse me in this world, even without a solid story. The enemies were scary, disgusting, and the different classes of enemies were easily distinguishable from one another. There was more blood splattered on the ground and walls in Dementium II through the five to seven hours of gameplay than in most full console releases, and works great to give the player a visceral feeling of dread and despair.

My only complaint graphically in Dementium II is that some areas can get repetitive. There seems to be about three main areas in this title: the ward, outside the ward, and the nightmare realm. I found the repetitiveness to creep in when Redmoor entered the nightmare realm. This area looked good, and had nice detail, but got old after seeing it on and off for six hours with little changes. I would have appreciated something different for this nightmare realm as the game progressed – maybe even something to help define exactly what this world was, how it existed, and why there were these evil monsters attacking the player.

Although the environments could get repetitive after time, that is only a minor setback when looking at the stellar graphics of Dementium II. Much like the first game, it’s predecessor, Dementium II, sits near the top of the list of the best graphics in a Nintendo DS game.

Graphics Rating: Classic

Sound

Anyone that has played a survival horror game in the past will agree that the music in this genre is important, and where it matters – alerting the player of incoming enemies – Dementium II delivers. The other front – the ambient soundtrack – will have players turning down the volume, not because the soundtrack is bad, but because it is so repetitive. Once players have heard the music for the first hour, they will have heard most of what Dementium II has to offer.

The soundtrack does do a great job of raising tension throughout the game thanks to the Jaws effect: whenever an enemy is getting near, a certain track plays, and this track remains looping until you have cleared the surrounding area of enemies. Whenever I heard this music, I tensed up and prepared my trigger button for a battle.

Different enemies can also breed different sound effects – screamers will be screaming in a high pitch, guards will yell at the player as they approach, another enemy laughs as the player attacks it – and these are done quite well. The voice acting is another great addition into Dementium II, and although there is not much done throughout the entirety of the game, what is there is haunting. Weapons also play a part in the soundtrack, and although good, there were a few weapon sounds that felt out of place such as the nail gun and sledgehammer.

The soundtrack in Dementium II excels in terms of adding tension and helping to build the environment; it falls flat in that it gets incredibly repetitive after just a couple hours of gameplay. The voice acting is well done, if limited, and the sound effects (weapons, enemy sounds) add well to the creepy atmosphere.

Sound Rating: Above Average

Control and Gameplay

The controls are a tricky beast – they seem fine through the first one-third of the game, and they are, but then the fourth boss happens, and I start damning to controls to Hell.

The basics work great: d-pad to walk (or X, Y, A, B, for the southpaws out there), L to shoot/slash, and the stylus to turn. The next step is where the trouble lies: jumping is either double tapping the screen, or tapping the up arrow on the lower screen of the DS, crouching is hitting the down arrow on the lower screen, and sprinting is hitting the up arrow twice on the d-pad. Although that may sound all right, the implementation is where the problems lie. There is a boss in Dementium II that requires the player to sprint, duck and jump quickly, in a maze-like fashion; the boss itself was not that difficult, but trying to get Redmoor to do what I wanted was. Luckily this only became a problem at a couple different points throughout the game, but when one late boss is entirely tied to the player’s sprint, crouch, and jumping abilities, the game should do what the player wants it to do without nearly as many problems as I had.

Dementium II is a first person shooter/survival horror hybrid, much like Doom or Wolfenstein. In the same vein as Resident Evil, the player collects different items throughout the game, and has an inventory filled with these collected items, along with different weapons found throughout. Item management is NOT the name of the game in Dementium II; there is nowhere to dump items, and no need to do so since Redmoor will never pick up more items than he has space to carry. The player will be forced to collect health pills or packets if they want to stay alive; there is no auto-regenerating health in Dementium II, unlike in most current first person shooters.

The player will move from room to room, killing enemies and solving various puzzles in order to progress through the game. True to its survival horror roots, the player will also want to search just about every room, high and low, looking for various glowing spots that can be examined by Redmoor. One complaint I had was that although I searched nearly every room from corner to corner, I had a hard time finding a lot of ammunition and health pills/packets. Even if Renegade Kid wanted to keep the difficulty up by limiting ammo and health (which is great in a survival horror game), they could have added other items to these rooms to make me feel like my thorough search of each room was worth it. There were seldom times when I felt that I had really earned a health pill or ammunition because these items were generally right out in the open (though in extremely limited supply).

No one should come in to Dementium II expecting to blast through without dying, because that will most likely not happen. Dementium II is not incredibly difficult, but there are points where death seems inevitable, such as virtually every boss battle aside from the first. When Redmoor dies, he is forced to restart at the last save point, which encourages the player to save early, and to save often. The player saves at different mirrors spread out through the levels, and each save fully regenerates Redmoor’s health. There were enough save points spread out that I rarely had to backtrack more than about three to five minutes of gameplay after a death.

The puzzles in this title were very basic for a survival horror game, and most people should be able to solve them in a matter of minutes; survival horror veterans will have an even easier time with them. Those that have played this genre in the past will know that conserving ammo is of utmost importance, and Dementium II stays true to this, for better or worse. Those people that love running through games with guns blazing will be disappointed with Dementium II; gamers who enjoy using knives to conserve ammo, and the “slow and steady” approach to games will feel much more at home.

Dementium II is a survival horror game at its core, and a first person shooter second. It is more akin to Silent Hill than Halo, and those looking to purchase this should keep that in mind. It takes patience to get through a title like this, and good weapon/ammo management. Though the story can be completed in about five-seven hours, depending on the player’s skill level and familiarity with the survival horror genre, the gameplay is worth the ride; it is fun enough to make up for the almost non-existent story, and corrects a lot of the first game’s mistakes (there are no re-spawning enemies when you backtrack to different rooms, and the player can hold a flashlight and any one-handed weapon at the same time, for example). For the most part, the controls are fine, but there will be points where the player will be cursing Renegade Kid for poor implementation of the crouch, sprint, and jump mechanics. These few times are not enough to make Dementium II unplayable, and can be overlooked thanks to the fun had throughout the rest of the game.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Very Good

Replayability

Renegade Kid has thrown in Survival Mode to help extend the gameplay, but this mode will prove too repetitive for most people, and add little to the life of the game. The main story mode is only about five to seven hours in length, and once it has been completed, there is no reason to come back to Dementium II. Those who find Survival Mode fun, though, will get five different waves to play through, and a difficulty that gets progressively harder. Beating this would take some time, but I cannot imagine it would even double the game’s six-hour story mode. Essentially, Dementium II is a “trade-in” title: a game that you beat once and then trade-in for something else.

Replayability Rating: Very Bad

Balance

The enemies in Dementium II progressed very well, and each new enemy was harder to defeat than the previous one. The same can be said for the bosses, even if some of the boss’s difficulty came from the controls rather than the actual boss itself, I still ended up dying more times on the later bosses than the earlier ones, which is how it should be. The final boss proved quite difficult, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to defeat it with the amount of ammunition I had left at that point in the game. Thanks to trying out different techniques, however, and creative use of my resources, I found a way to defeat it. It was difficult, yes, but it made beating the game feel like an accomplishment, and was a great way to cap off a well-balanced game.

The puzzles in Dementium II, on the other hand, were very easy throughout, and never seemed to progress at all. They were nice additions to the game, but seemed to be there only to add a few minutes to the gameplay. It would have been nice to see these get harder as the game progressed. I am a pretty smart person, but I’m generally terrible when it comes to solving puzzles in survival horror games; I managed to breeze through these in Dementium II with little difficulty.

The puzzles left a lot to be desired, especially for a survival horror game, but the bosses and other enemies made up for it. Although Dementium II is not a very difficult game, the player will still feel a sense of accomplishment at the end thanks to a good progression to a difficult final boss.

Balance Rating: Great

Originality

Like the original, Dementium II is very much a rip-off of The Suffering‘s story and Doom‘s gameplay, mixed with Resident Evil‘s puzzles and item-collecting. Dementium II is not very original, but it is still able to combine these previously used ideas into a fun experience. Anyone looking for the tried and true survival horror game can find a good, though short, fix with Dementium II; someone looking for a fresh take on the genre will have to look elsewhere.

Originality Rating: Dreadful

Addictiveness

With so weak a story to suck the gamer in, it is difficult to get addicted to Dementium II. It wasn’t until near the end that I found myself wanting to keep going for just a couple more minutes each time I picked up my DS. Few people will find the need to play this through in one sitting due to its slow pacing at the start of the game. Once the player gets closer to the end, and the feeling that they just might get a climax and conclusion to the story that has been laid out, that is when they will want to stay attached to their DS and play through the night.

Addictiveness Rating: Below Average

Appeal Factor

One might expect a first person shooter/survival horror hybrid to have a big audience, but I don’t think that will be the case for Dementium II. The first game had so many problems that most will write the sequel off as another failure. This is unfortunate because Renegade Kid has done a great job of improving virtually everything over the first game. This is a great game for a mature gamer looking for a tension-filled romp that will leave them with an unsettling feeling right from the start. Survival horror fans will get the biggest kick out of Dementium II, while people who enjoy shooting everything that moves will be disappointed in the lack of available ammunition. This is definitely a niche title, and a niche title that suffers from a lackluster sequel does not bode well for universal appeal.

Appeal Factor Rating: Pretty Poor

Miscellaneous

After bashing the game’s weak spots over and over again, the fact that Dementium II is a fun game can easily get lost. Renegade Kids has done a great job of learning from their mistakes of the first Dementium: The Ward, and has delivered a much improved title. Rarely have I found myself anxious while playing on a handheld system, but that was case with this game. I noticed myself moving my head and my system to one side or the other as I tried to avoid an attack from an enemy, just like I used to do when I first started playing Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo Entertainment System. A game with almost no coherent story to be so fun is a rare thing, and a point that should not be overlooked.

Miscellaneous Rating: Great

The Scores
Story: Dreadful
Graphics: Classic
Sound: Above Average
Control and Gameplay: Very Good
Replayability: Very Bad
Balance: Great
Originality: Dreadful
Addictiveness: Below Average
Appeal Factor: Pretty Poor
Miscellaneous: Great
FINAL SCORE: DECENT

Short Attention Span Summary
Dementium II is a short game with very little replay value, and the average gamer will be completely finished with it in about seven hours. That isn’t to say this isn’t a title worth checking out. Anyone who enjoys the survival horror genre will be able to overlook Dementium II‘s shortcomings and have a good time, even with the lackluster story development. At times the controls can be frustrating, but not enough to deem the title “unplayable” by any stretch of the imagination. Those who played the prequel – Dementium: The Ward – and those looking for a quick, fun, handheld survival horror fix with excellent graphics owe it to themselves, and Renegade Kid, to check out the improvements made in Dementium II; they will not be disappointed.




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