Portable Survival Horror isn’t a very normal occurrence in gaming nowadays; in fact I think I can count the number of games on one hand. It makes sense though, as being scared on a tiny screen isn’t very compelling. There’s no surround sound or huge screen to get lost in. Albeit you have the benefit of earbuds and sitting in complete darkness, but it doesn’t feel the same for me. I like playing Survival Horror on a huge television in complete darkness with the sound turned all the way up, that’s how I went through the original Resident Evils. Now that doesn’t mean the Dementium: The Ward is not worth your time. This tiny Survival Horror cartridge should be in your DS collection, right next to Resident Evil: Deadly Silence. The time you spend in this hospital milling about will make the cramps in your hands totally worth it.
Dementium began as a handheld Silent Hill title, but since Konami isn’t the smartest publisher on the planet, something fell through and Renegade Kid continued with production anyway. Seeing as I’ve played through about ninety percent of the Silent Hill games, I could feel the Silent Hill hidden within the game. The biggest being that there are copious amounts of locked doors that end up being written on your map automatically: love that function. I digress though, the story in Dementium is one of escape and survival. You awaken from a nightmare-ridden sleep in Redmoor Hospital, with no idea why you’re there or what has happened to it. The place is run down with broken items, blood and dead bodies everywhere; obviously it would be wise to find a way out. You hop off the rusted bed and delve into a world of horror that you have never seen before, armed with only your wits and whatever you may find along the way; welcome to The Ward.
The controls in this game take a bit of getting used to. First you must remember that the Triggers on the Nintendo DS are your friend. The Right Trigger switches what you have in your hand, which varies between a flashlight and certain weapons. The Left Trigger activates that item whether it be turning the flashlight on or off or swinging a nightstick at some unnamed horror. To navigate the hospital you use the control pad to move and the stylus to look around; this takes some time getting used to, especially when you begin to panic as you take damage and have no idea where it is coming from. The best way to escape that is to double tap the direction you want to run on the gamepad and hold it down to run away so you can align yourself with the beast that is hitting you. Combat is a bit rough, though. When you have the nightstick you have to aim for center mass or you swing wildly. Missing isn’t an option because after a few hits you’re down. Gunplay is decent, but the gun has such amazing recoil that you cannot rapid fire into an enemy without losing precious ammo. The only gun that would punch you back like that is .50 cal, which this gun is not, as you’re given a crappy 9mm. The controls remind me of Kid Icarus Uprising, which makes Dementium a hand cramping experience.
Having two screens and one of them being a touch screen does make this a unique horror experience. On the top screen you have a first person view of what the protagonist is experiencing. On the bottom screen you have everything you need to survive. The bottom screen shows you your health, the items you carry and a few buttons to get you to the Map and your Notepad. The Map is useful because it logs all the locked doors like I said previously, but seeing that when you get turned around gets you right back on track; you never want to get lost in this hospital for too long. In this game you have to write down certain tips that further your progress in the game. At an early point in the game I had to write down three numbers in my handy Notepad; which is much better than trying to remember it and possibly having to backtrack if you forget. This was a function that I really liked, writing down all these notes that will help you escape this hospital of horrors.
I was pleasantly surprised with this title. At first I thought that it wasn’t going to be able to hold my attention or scare me in the least, but it succeeded on both points. The atmosphere does draw you in, even though it is on a couple tiny screens, and if you play with earbuds on in the dark you’re in for a whole world of scares. The enemies vary enough to keep you on your toes, and the story drags you in because you need to find out what happened at this hospital and ultimately what your fate is. If you’re a huge fan of survival horror and have a DS or 3DS then you should hunt this title down, and its harder to find sequel. You won’t be let down, and you may even get a few nightmares out of it.
Happy Hallowe’en from all of us here at BagoGames!