Dementium: The Ward Review

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Publisher: Gamecock Media Group
Developer: Renegade Kid

Platform: DS
Reviewed on DS

"You wake up alone, in the dark, only to find yourself in a mysterious, derelict hospital that appears to be frozen in time. You have only vague memories of who you are and no memory of the events that have brought you to this eerie place.

As you move through the dark halls and encounter horrible creatures, you will uncover clues that recall your scattered memories and uncover a truth that is more horrifying than even the gruesome Redmoor Hospital."

Kyle Ackerman

Dementium: The Ward is the best-looking first-person action game for the DS out there. Developer Renegade Kid has created a masterly engine that takes the DS technology further than I'd thought possible. Then they applied that engine to a horror game that is, at times, terrifying – but is marred by its checkpoint system and occasional boss battles.

I can't emphasize enough how good this game looks (for the DS platform). The screenshots simply don't do justice to Dementium: The Ward. The game needs to be seen in motion to be appreciated. And remarkably, the control scheme is surprisingly comfortable, especially on the DS platform – a platform that is almost hostile to the configurations necessary for a first-person shooter. Control isn't quite comparable to that of a first-person shooter on the PC, but it's impressively easy to master, and without the horrible hand cramps that other FPS efforts on the DS have inspired.

The story is an old one, at least for survival/horror games, but it works well enough. You awaken, afflicted with amnesia, in a hospital devoid of doctors and nurses, but filled with horrifying creatures resembling zombies, parasitic worms... and worse. There are puzzles, but they are typically straightforward – satisfying enough to justify their presence but not hard enough to slow down the action. Hallways are dark and horrific, and players are forced to choose between seeing the hospital's horrors (thanks to a flashlight) or being able to batter them with the few weapons on hand. As you might expect, there just isn't enough ammunition to illuminate the hallways with muzzle flashes.

The hospital is huge, again giving the impression of a much larger space than most DS games manage. While you'll roam many floors, wards, the roof, and horrific waiting rooms, collapsed walls and locked doors enforce a linear path, herding you slowly past every twisted creature that Redmoor hospital has to offer.

The sound in Dementium: The Ward is worthy of mention, too. It's just plain creepy... in an impressively appropriate way. This game must be played with headphones on and the sound turned up. Muted, or on the DS speakers, the sound just doesn't convey the horrifying environment of Redmoor hospital sufficiently, and sound is a critical part of survival/horror games.

The major flaw with Dementium: The Ward comes from trying to keep the game horrific. To avoid that whole quick-save/quick-load some games devolve into, the game forces you to restart if you die from checkpoints, typically at the beginning of a long game sequence. That's fine, in that it makes every zombie that springs out of a closet all the more horrifying, and kept me on my toes instead of letting me lounge back and not take threats seriously. The problem comes from boss monsters.

Boss monsters are supposed to be challenging. Sometimes I easily thwarted them on the first encounter. Sometimes it took a few tries. But when I failed, I had to replay long sequences of wandering the hospital hallways to try the combat again. This may be an old saw, but developers take heed: If you have boss encounters and a checkpoint save system, checkpoints must be right before the boss encounter. Really. If not for this one problem, Dementium: The Ward would have been brilliant on the DS. Because of the checkpoint/boss problem, it was long stretches of engaging horror broken up by stretches of irritation. The game is short, or should be, but is dramatically extended by that repetition.

Dementium: The Ward comes just short of being a brilliant experience on the DS. Unfortunately, because of the boss/checkpoint problem, only people with a love of a good boss battle or those with a high threshold for repetition will tackle this experience with glee. Everyone else might enjoy the experience, but need to walk away from the DS between boss attempts.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on February 11, 2008 3:57 PM.

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