Dementium: The Ward, a game with the tagline, “Doom 3 meets Silent Hill. BE VERY AFRAID.” Ehhhh… I am not so sure about that.
|Console||Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS|
|Publisher||Gamecock Media Group, Interchannel-Holon, SouthPeak Games, Renegade Kid|
|Genre||First-person shooter, survival horror|
|Release Year||2007 – 2009 (NDS), 2015 – 2016 (3DS)|
|Purchase (3DS)||Purchase from Nintendo website.|
|Purchase (NDS)||Purchase from Amazon.|
Nintendo was well known for its line of handheld game consoles, from the early days of the Game Boy to the current success of the Nintendo 3DS. And we watched as thousands upon thousands of games poured into these systems, constructing massive libraries filled with oft overlooked games and true gems.
Strangely enough though, these systems had very few horror-themed titles all across. Perhaps it was because horror was difficult to simulate on these handheld consoles, or not many people seemed to think these systems could pull it off. I can certainly understand those reasons. Even the NES had very few horror-themed games, but I think the one that came closest to feeling like legit horror was Sweet Home. And that game only came out in Japan.
The Nintendo 3DS thus far also suffers a similar fate. There are very few horror titles, with Corpse Party and Resident Evil: Revelations probably being the most recognized ones on the system. But we’re about to look at another title that often gets overlooked.
Dementium: The Ward is a game that originally came out on the Nintendo DS, being a horror-themed first-person shooter that uses the touch screen for camera movement (just like Metroid Prime Hunters). This is the first major published game by developer Renegade Kid, the same developer who would later create Mutant Mudds. Dementium was originally proposed as a Silent Hill spinoff to Konami, but Konami declined the idea. Instead, they opted for this game to be its own original title. So we got Dementium, which claims to be “Doom 3 meets Silent Hill.” Right on the DS game’s cover art. We’ll see about that.
Dementium also had a port with improved graphics and minor gameplay changes on the 3DS called Dementium: Remastered, which is the version I’m going to discuss. It’s even rare to see first-person shooters on the 3DS, so this game is a real novelty for the system.
The game throws you into the insanity immediately, where you encounter multiple horror tropes: zombies (with slug eyes), worms (that scream for some reason), disembodied torsos, a creepy little girl, evil doctors, and a blonde lady covered in blood. The actual story is something you have to piece together as you go along.
At its core, Dementium is a typical first-person shooter where you’re exploring what appears to be a mental hospital. The first few chapters are linear, where you get acclimated to the combat, puzzle-solving and monster encounters. But as the game goes on, the exploration becomes more open-ended and you would have to navigate through labyrinthine hallways in hopes that you’ll advance to the next chapter.
The graphics are not too shabby overall. Comparing the DS and 3DS versions together, both games looked pretty good for their respective systems. But the 3DS version decided that everything should be darker and harder to see. Ugh. Sadly, that is all of the good I can say about the visuals.
This WHOLE GAME takes place in the hospital, with very little variety in how the rooms and hallways look. Seriously. When you had to keep staring at the same environments for hours on end, it just makes you feel like you’re making little progress. Occasionally, you do have to go outside. But that’s just not enough. I’m sorry, but these visuals are just boring. The dark, creepy hallway just loses its effect if you have to keep seeing it fifty more times.
The sound design is okay as well. The game manages to have decent sound effects for stormy weather and monster noises to create an immersive horror atmosphere. The monster noises can get annoying sometimes, though. But the music is generic and repetitive. There is not a single track I can remember at the top of my head. Here’s an example just to show you what I mean.
Nearly the entire soundtrack sounds like this. Some synthetic noises, the “ahh” and “ohh” vocals, and some piano accompaniment. And most of the tracks sound too pleasant to work in a horror game. Even during the game’s intense moments, the music doesn’t adjust well to them. They make me want to fall asleep rather than anticipate some horrific monster creeping up on me.
Doom 3 meets Silent Hill, huh? Maybe I get the Doom part, but definitely not Silent Hill. It kinda makes me glad that Konami decided not to connect this game to the Silent Hill series, because I’m just not feeling it.
Oh, Look. A Zombie. Yawn.
Ohai, much better game.
Anyways, let’s go over the gameplay mechanics. For whatever reason, you have to hold the flashlight and weapon separately. That means that whenever you have to fight monsters, you have to put away the flashlight and fight in total darkness.
You can argue that this makes the game scarier. For me personally, it just makes killing monsters more of a chore and makes it harder for me to preserve my bullets.
Thankfully, you can easily switch between the flashlight and favored weapon using the up and down directions of the D-pad.
While you mainly have to move the camera with the stylus, 3DS owners playing the Remastered version have an even better option. This game is compatible with the Circle Pad Pro. And by extension, the C-stick for New 3DS owners. And thank god for that. Using the buttons are simply easier on my hands.
The monsters aren’t difficult to defeat, though they can wear your patience out. Most of them have to come up close to you to actually damage you, but some of them have projectile attacks. By understanding their attack patterns, you won’t have too much problem dealing with them.
The screaming heads are probably the most dangerous regular enemies, but the electric buzz-saw makes short work of them. They take quite a big chunk of your health, so be prepared to use up lots of pills.
But if you’re playing the original game on the DS, you have to deal with respawning enemies. And maybe lots of wasted ammo. Hehehe. Have fun with that.
I will definitely say that the hit detection is a bit wonky in this game, especially when it comes to using melee weapons. Furthermore, most enemies don’t seem to take more or less damage depending on which areas of the body you shoot them at. So headshots are very ineffective here. Even when you take out the enemy’s head, it doesn’t affect their ability to attack you or anything. It seems like each of your weapons only do a set amount of damage, no matter where they hit.
Come on, really? Even Goldeneye 007 on the Nintendo 64 had headshots that result in one-hit kills. This is just primitive.
You will also find that the monsters appear quite frequently, so running past them is always an option. Most are not fast enough to catch you anyway and you’ll be saving a lot of ammo. This goes especially true for the original DS game, what with the respawning enemies and all.
I’m not fond of the boss battles though. There are only four in total (with two of them reappearing for second encounters with very little changes to them) and the rules feel a bit different when you fight them. Unlike the regular enemies in the game, the bosses get invincibility frames when they flash red. And these bosses have lots of hitpoints too. Why not just do it the Turok way and let you attack them as much as you want, with occasional stun frames? This makes the boss battles feel sluggish and tedious.
Though it’s pretty hilarious that one boss is so poorly planned out that you can easily kill him from inside an elevator.
With that said though, you NEED to get the electric buzz-saw weapon. It’s locked inside a chest that requires three keys to open it, which you will find relatively early. Once you get those keys, open the chest as soon as possible and slice away. The buzz-saw takes care of nearly every enemy in the game, including those annoying screaming heads.
Now, here is the absolute worst part of Dementium: the save feature. Even though the game will occasionally say it’s saving, it’s not actually saving your progress. It’s just saving how long you played the particular game file you’re on. This is a real boneheaded thing to do to the players, fooling them into thinking the game saved. When I first died and thought I was making good progress, I thought I could return to where the game last “saved.”
But no. I have to restart from the very beginning! What the actual fuck.
So here’s how this works. You have to beat this game on one life. In the original game, your progress will be saved ONLY if you defeat the boss enemies. So if you die at the bosses, you have to start all that tedious shit all over again. That is bullshit. But if you beat a boss, you just restart from the boss room.
However, the Remastered version added in save points, which are these hypnotic red screens you may find in certain rooms. At first, I had no idea what those things were and I passed up on them thinking they were just background decorations. But nope! Those are the real save points.
You know, the beginning parts of the game had to shove the tutorials right up your face. But they failed to tell you something important like how to save.
What is this even… ugh…
But once you get past the game’s flaws, it’s not terrible. The actual gameplay is straightforward (if not terribly lacking). You can even use the touchscreen to use a notepad to write down hints, which you will really only use a few times. The puzzles are not difficult overall—though the one with the combination lock with the letters AULA makes no sense at all.
Even with all this said, it’s not that good of a game. The first-person shooter mechanics feel more dated and shallow than some of the FPS games on Nintendo 64. And the horror is pretty generic. Nothing truly stands out as “great” to me. It’s just a mediocre experience.
I played through the game’s normal difficulty. Out of curiosity, I decided to try out the hardest option: demented difficulty. Needless to say, I didn’t make it very far. The enemies have much higher hitpoints and do more damage, which is about it. I don’t have the motivation to do a second playthrough.
Oh, and if you’re wondering what the story is, don’t bother. It’s minimalist, but it’s nothing to write home about. Nothing but horror clichés.The hints of the actual context lack subtlety and they culminate to an overdone horror plot twist. The ending is also not well worth it.
Overall, Dementium: The Ward is not a bad game if you’re just looking to kill some time. It’s a novelty, sure, but the game lacks any depth and there’s just no replay value to it. I can’t think of a single reason why I would want to go back to it. It’s just that bland. I know the game has plenty of fans out there and this is one of the few legit horror games on both the Nintendo DS and 3DS. But given the choice, I rather just go back to playing the original Doom or Silent Hill.
Dementium: The Ward$14.99
- The first-person mechanics are passable for a portable game.
- Graphics are decent for the DS and 3DS.
- Sound design can be immersive at times.
- The Remastered version has Circle Pad Pro compatibility, meaning New 3DS owners can use the C-stick for camera movement.
- The bare bones story is not worth getting invested into.
- Very little variety in environmental designs.
- Music is generic and repetitive.
- The DS game has respawning enemies, so slow exploration and killing everything are pointless.
- The save system in the DS version is terrible.
- The first-person shooter mechanics are shallow and lacking.