Maybe I’m just lucky but I’ve never had to stay in hospital other than the time when I was actually being born and I don’t really think that counts. However after staying for a week in a virtual hospital full of monsters on my new DSi the experience has put me right off my upcoming sense of humour reduction surgery. Dementium The Ward is a survival horror first person shooter for DS.
If you thought that such a game couldn’t be done on Nintendo’s low powered handheld then developers Renegade Kid are here to prove you wrong. Suddenly you wake up in a dark hospital room with no clue what’s happening; nothing immediately looks amiss but the fact that your room is only lit up by the lightning outside already sets a spooky atmosphere. A notepad is on the floor in front of you with the words ‘Why Did You Do It’ scrawled upon it and a metal key alongside. Simply tapping TAKE on the bottom screen collects them into your inventory ready for use. There is a single exit door to your room and the same key you just collected unlocks it, but if the key was on the floor doesn’t that mean the door must have been locked from the inside? As you step out of the door the first thing you notice is blood, there’s blood everywhere; on the floor, on the walls, everywhere. Perhaps it was a mistake to leave the safety of your room but you won’t find any answers in there – you’re only choice is to move forward and find out what has happened here. A recorded message is playing through the speaker system, ‘This is an emergency, everyone must evacuate the building, locate the nearest stairwell’. As you walk towards the voice recording you quickly notice that the doors to the stairs ahead are padlocked securely; the only other way is back towards more blood and a FMV sequence featuring a huge creature carrying a bloody cleaver dragging a woman away to her death – her terrified blue eyes fix on you and open wide seemingly asking for help but in a brief second they’re gone .
Spooky stuff eh? Well that’s just the start, if you’re easily scared it might be time to play something else because things in Dementium are not going to get any nicer. The basic premise of Dementium is to explore the hospital, find out what has happened, and survive. If you have previously played Doom 3 you will no doubt have experience of having to switch between a flashlight and weapons on the fly in order to navigate rooms and corridors to dispatch monsters. Well that experience will come in very handy because just like Doom 3 you’ll be exploring very dark rooms and corridors with your torch in hand but at any moment a monster could appear and will need to be killed quickly because this time you’re not a marine covered in protective armour and you certainly don’t have a plasma gun capable of cutting through flesh, to start with you just have a wardens nightstick to use as a club. For the most part you will be moving from floor to floor throughout the east and west buildings of the hospital taking mental notes of your surroundings with every step because each floor is very similar to the last and can even seem identical, you’ll need to use your memory and any torn maps you find to work yourself through. As soon as you think you know an area and become complacent whilst moving around you’ll find out you were wrong when something spews green acidic vomit onto you or breaks through a seemingly locked door. Unlike Doom 3 you will have to solve some riddles before you’ll be anywhere near escaping. Noting down number sequences written in blood on the walls and solving cryptic clues to find keys are just some of the things you’ll have to do if you want to find weapons to aid your escape. Because Dementium: The Ward is very linear I don’t want to describe too much about what happens because the best way to experience it is for yourself, so let me jump to the chase. It’s a very dark and scary game, there aren’t too many adult rated games on DS but Dementium is one of them.
Gameplay and cutscenes will spook you both physically and mentally. Just imagine Resident Evil meets Silent Hill Homecoming with a smidgen of Doom 3 and FEAR 2 thrown in for good measure and you’re well on your way to picturing Dementium. The question is; are you brave enough to try it? After just a couple of minutes you’ll see just in terms of technicality that Dementium is stunning, a fast slick moving FPS on Nintendo DS with real time lighting and fully 3D models is not only an achievement on the system but quite rare to find. Sure up close those textures are a little blocky but that was the case on every PlayStation 1 game and that didn’t stop the system from selling god near a billion units did it? Controlling yourself in Dementium is a dream (as long as you dream about simplicity that is) and because of the clever DS button layout, right and left handed players have a very similar control scheme. Glide the stylus over the touch screen to move your viewpoint and use the DPad to move backwards and forwards as well as strafing left and right. The shoulder button acts as your trigger finger and as soon as you find a gun (or two) you’ll be getting lots of use out of it. Collecting health and ammo is just a case of walking over them but both are in short supply so you’ll need to take your time and not get caught off guard by enemies. You’ll either need to turn your DS volume up high or wear some earphones if you want to experience the atmospheric music and effects at their best, it’s also worth noting that you can hear monsters from a distance so the easier you can hear the game the more time you’ll have to prepare for attack.
The boss battles are quite tough but thankfully you usually find a supply of health and ammo just outside their room, sadly you encounter each boss a couple of times (even know you’ve killed them once) which adds to the receptiveness of the already repetitive hospital layout from floor to floor and room to room. I would like to have seen a little more variation in all aspects of the game; the environments, the enemies, the gameplay and even the puzzles but even as it is this is a unique game on DS which deserves to be played. Even though enemies respawn if you have to back track through the level actually shooting hideous freaky beings in tight confined spaces with a shotgun is great fun whatever, just as long as you’re accurate and don’t use up all your ammo. Dementium The Ward is one of the first in a new line of DS games designed to push the hardware and challenge the hardcore player. It’s not perfect but would be considered a fairly good game on a console and considering it’s on a handheld I have to award an excellent 7 out of 10.
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