|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Renegade Kid||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SouthPeak Interactive||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 4, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Robert VerBruggen
The DS isn't exactly known for its mature-themed content or graphical capabilities, but two and a half years ago, developer Renegade Kid delivered a good-looking, gory, and frightening experience in Dementium: The Ward. Now, with the appropriately titled Dementium II, they return to the formula that brought them modest success last time around. This is one of the best-looking games the DS has to offer, and the gameplay works well for the most part, but a few significant problems keep it from being a must-buy.
Since the first game, little has changed about the basic idea. From a first-person perspective, you fight evil creatures in a blood-soaked old-school insane asylum. At the beginning of the game, you're locked up after allegedly murdering your wife, and you just had a brain operation (performed by The Doctor) meant to stop your hallucinations. Then, something goes wrong. The lights go down. Your cell opens. You grab a shank and start stabbing your way through guards and zombies.
The Bright Dawn Treatment Center is quite large, and as you run through the basic first-person shooter and survival-horror tropes (kill all the enemies in the room to unlock the door, get this key, find that item), you can track your progress on the Super Metroid-style map that appears on the bottom. Ammo is scarce, so you'll be relying a lot on melee weapons, which is a nice twist but a little too frustrating. You have to time your hits perfectly to keep your enemies from sapping your health (which is also scarce), and the smaller and/or quicker enemies (such as the slugs, or the fast-moving breed of monster that hurls projectiles at you) are tough to hit. The lack of ammo also keeps you from enjoying the game's later projectile weapons, which include some big, fun machines of destruction.
Overall, though, it's a good experience to roam the halls, deal with enemies, trigger the many spooky cutscenes, and take down the occasional tough and interesting boss. The game even throws some variety your way; in one section, you have to navigate a maze without running into ghosts. If you hit a ghost, you're teleported to a room full of zombies, and when you kill the zombies, you're teleported back to the beginning of the maze. There are other puzzles as well, which make for a good distraction, even if they're not as intriguing as those in, say, a Zelda game.
Your beautifully rendered surroundings only add to the experience. This looks like a top-notch Nintendo 64 game, with great lighting, well-designed environments, and remarkably detailed cutscenes. The zombies convincingly stagger toward you, the slugs ooze along the floor, and the bosses are appropriately big and menacing. The A.I. can leave something to be desired, but at least the enemies don't respawn whenever you return to a room, as they did in the original Dementium. Those used to playing shooters in HD might not be impressed, but they should be.
Fortunately, the controls are top-notch; they're straight out of Metroid Prime Hunters. The stylus serves as a mouse to look around, the D-pad walks and strafes, and the L trigger shoots. You can run by double-tapping the D-pad, and jump, crouch, and use your flashlight (with any one-handed weapon) by touching icons with the stylus. You can use items or switch weapons by navigating quickly through a menu on the touch screen. Anyone who's played a modern first-person shooter on a computer will feel right at home crouched over the DS's two small screens.