|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Renegade Kid||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Gamecock Media Group||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 31, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
Though the DS hardware has been proven capable, survival horror and first-person shooter titles are incredulously few and far between on the Nintendo handheld. Instead, the system is rife with casual games and kid-friendly content. Change is in the air - in the form of bloodcurdling screeches and the whine of bone saws - as Renegade Kid and Gamecock have stepped up to the plate to offer-up Dementium: The Ward, an intense and horrifying trek through the depths of insanity.
An eerie and oppressive atmosphere is a crucial component of any good survival horror adventure, and the dark, blood-soaked corridors of Redmoor Hospital do the trick nicely. You'll awaken in a hospital bed amidst nightmares of being tied up and wheeled down a hallway past terrifying images of dismembered bodies and zombie-like creatures. The room is dark and quiet, save for the sound of rain and occasional flashes of lightning which provide brief moments of illumination. As you set out further towards the heart of the abandoned hospital in search of clues to your identity, what has happened, and why you are there, unspeakable slithering atrocities and walking medical experiments wait in hiding. Unlucky enough for you, they've developed at taste for human flesh.
Stumbling through the inky blackness of the derelict facility in first-person perspective makes the experience all the more unsettling. By design, your natural vision only allows you to see few steps in front of you, and most of the time you'll be relying on the dim flicker of a flashlight to light your path. The developers proficiently play on people's natural fear of the dark and the unknown to ramp up the intensity and scariness of the situation. The unsightly creatures you'll face in game are creepy indeed, but not knowing when or where they'll burst forth from the surrounding darkness is what makes the gameplay more terrifying. Often the only thing alerting you to their presence is the sound of heavy breathing or growling from a dark corner. While there may only be a few moments in the game likely to make you jump, the overall feeling it evokes is one of tense anticipation. Audio plays a crucial role in creating a chilling atmosphere in Dementium. The game's 3D sound positioning places sound effects in their corresponding direction and the sounds get louder or quieter depending on how close you are to them. Creepy music filters in and out at times while some rooms are dead silent. The frantic beating of your heart is a constant. Earphones are definitely the way to go to get the full effect.
Dementium's polished visuals are gruesome and effective. There's practically no room untouched by grime and spattered blood, overturned chairs and other items block off some passages, and randomly scattered broken medical instruments seems to be the decorative motif of choice. Though the hospital hall environments do look similar after awhile, you'll stumble across many different rooms which change things up. The small details add up, and the overall presentation is first-rate. The wide-screen cutscenes used to advance portions of the story and introduce new twists are sinister and slick.
The action runs at a steady frame-rate without any blips or slowdown, even when battling multiple on-screen foes. Everything plays out on the top screen, with the stylish touch screen interface used for weapon selection, interacting with objects, doodling notes to help with puzzle solving, and looking around. Players will use the d-pad to move around and the touch screen to aim. The L trigger is used for turning the flashlight off and on, firing weapons, or swinging the police baton.