Night of the Living DS
August 14, 2007 – There are two things the DS has sorely been lacking as of late: first-person shooters and raw evil. Since the release of Metroid Prime Hunters in early 2006, there really hasn’t been any true FPS titles on the DS, which is a surprise considering what’s possible on the system. With all the fluffy, cute content available for the DS, those who enjoy an occasional taste of the dark side have been waiting for something gruesome to crawl forth from the cracks of the earth and infest the Nintendo handheld.
Fortunately, game developers Renegade Kid recognized this glaring deficiency and set out to create Dementium: The Ward, a first-person shooter/survival horror title for the DS that may very well satiate the bloodlust fans have been thirsting for. With the newly formed Gamecock now on-board to publish the title this fall, Dementium: The Ward looks to be one of the slickest, and sickest, offerings on the way.
Winding through sinister plot twists is a major part of any good horror game, so it’s no big surprise that Renegade Kid has been tight lipped on what lies ahead in terms of the game’s story. What we do know is players will awaken to find themselves in a creepy, abandoned hospital lain to waste by unspeakable horrors. The demolished, gore-strewn corridors are filled with puzzles, strange characters, and evil beings. You must unearth the secrets of this eerie place while staying alive long enough to escape.
The game’s graphics look promising, and the developers seem to squeeze every bit of available power out of the DS while keeping a smooth frame-rate. Players who enjoyed survival horror games like Silent Hill and Resident Evil will feel right at home amidst the oppressively dark hallways of the ward. Adding to the element of creepiness, the use of one seemingly mundane item is going to play a large part in exploration and enhancing the game’s hellish atmosphere. With very little light in the game, players will have to rely on wielding a flashlight to search through the darkness. The flashlight allows you to see much farther into the darkness, but, as in real life, what you are able to see clearly is limited to what falls within the beam of light. The lighting system is expertly implemented and really makes the game a lot more intense, as often you will have to choose between using the flashlight to see and wielding a weapon to combat enemies in darkness.
The controls scheme is similar to Metroid Prime Hunters: the action occurring on the top screen while the touch-screen is used for movement and item selection. Players move about with the d-pad and use the stylus on the touch-screen like a PC mouse to look around and aim. Weapons and items can easily be selected with the stylus on. Players will be able to use eight different weapons including a flashlight, pistol, shotgun, sniper rifle, machine gun, and yes, an electric buzz saw, among others. The inclusion of a notebook feature, which allows you to jot down important clues with the stylus, is a great addition. It will come in handy when working on the game’s puzzles.
There will be between six and eight types of creatures inhabiting the hospital, each with their own sub-classes, in addition to four or five boss battles. So far, we’ve seen large crawling maggoty things, humanoid beasts with chests ripped-open like maws, fanged, emaciated creatures bound in medical gauze, and a hulking nasty wielding a larger cleaver. In the stronger iterations of creatures found further into the game, the developers promise additional gross effects such as beasts that vomit bile at you.
Even with ample amounts of gore and unsightly medical atrocities lurching through the eerily dark corridors, no survival horror experience is complete without plenty of scary sounds effects to match. It appears Renegade Kid aims to deliver in this area as well. The audio in Dementium is an appropriate mixture of tense atmospheric music and creepy, gripping noises. At times, the halls are silent except for the sound of your heartbeat, which thumps with increasing intensity as your injuries become more serious. In some places, well-timed snippets of music trickle into the background, while elsewhere the crackling of an emergency evacuation warning blares over hospital speakers, competing with the distant hum of an alarm. It’s a soundtrack of impending doom for those who cannot escape the confines of the bloody walls.
Other noises, like the “kachunk” of a shotgun reload or the high-pitch screech emitted from nasty maggot-like creatures slithering towards you, are right at home amongst creaking doors, lightning, and the heavy breathing of vile, slithering beasts. Dementium will feature 3D sound position – noises will become louder as players move closer to their source and sounds will also pan to the left or right speaker depending on their corresponding location – and the developers suggest playing in a dark room with earphones will be the way to go.
Dementium: The Ward is slated for an October 31 release, just in time for Halloween. Prepare to be disturbed and enthralled.