Welcome to the Plane of Anguish! Here's your complimentary meathook.
Remember the original Dementium? Neil just discussed it in his Extra Life special, and I reviewed the game way back in 2008. The original game is all right, but clearly a rookie effort, and it is plagued by some pretty terrible design choices. This second game fixes the vast majority of my problems with the original, but manages to add its own irritating grievances. Despite that, if you play the game with a few key PROTIPS in mind, you should emerge a happy, satisfied gamer.
The first thing Dementium 2 gets right is atmosphere. The abandoned hallways of a deteriorating mental hospital are rife with bloodstains, grime, and disarray. The monsters are interesting and make telltale sounds, so you know they’re coming before you see them. Sometimes that gives you time to set up an attack. Other times, you become paranoid when you haven’t seen them for a few minutes. The boss battles are epic and largely enjoyable, though the final two suffer from some design issues that I’ll get to in a minute. The Dementium team at Renegade Kid (who also made The Ward and Moon) really know how to make the system sing at this point. The first game’s fantastic flashlight effect is back here, and I still love it. I’d say Dementium 2 is comparable to a low-res N64 shooter, which is no small feat. Not all the production values are consistent, however. The musical score is either absent or too repetitious, and I found myself turning the music down entirely in the options menu and listening only to the monsters and ambient noise.
The gunplay has improved somewhat, with more available weapons of varying strength, though it’s easy to miss the best one if you don’t remember what specific doors are unlocked by specific keys. Because of the scarcity of ammunition, however, Dementium 2 tosses a handful of interesting melee weapons at you, including a buzz saw, sledgehammer, and flamethrower. There’s one weapon, acquired late in the game, that can be thrown like a boomerang, but it barely does any damage. It is useful only when you need a ranged weapon and have no ammo (this becomes a problem during the final boss fight).
The rarity of ammo would not be so problematic if the game didn’t force you into kill rooms. Unless you want to waste all your health pills fighting off demons at fisticuff range (they gather around you), you’ll need to make use of your guns. But if you use your weapons, you’ll be forced to spend the next half-hour searching for ammo and stabbing monsters with a knife along the way. So, here’s the first PROTIP: Run away from enemies that are not in kill rooms. They’re easily avoided anyway, and nobody ever drops a good helm (or anything else).
Boss encounters are great, but go on too long. You’d think that a shotgun to the face at point-blank range would knock some serious HP off their meter, but you’d be wrong. The first and last bosses are the worst offenders. For the first boss, you are forced to use a knife. The fight takes ten to fifteen minutes, and that’s if you don’t die. Your reward for the battle is a handgun. The final boss has a monumental amount of HP, and if you’ve been “wasting” ammo on non-kill room enemies, you won’t even get him down to half health. That’s where the boomerang comes out, hand-cramping seizes up, and you restart the game. So, PROTIP number two: Remember to go all the way back to the second map (they’re all connected) and grab the best gun before diving into the last boss’s area.
The plot is intriguing, and it’s never really clear what "side" you’re on. Are you the crazy one, or has the rest of the world unwound itself? Happily, the end of the game makes you think, and has inspired me to replay it with that knowledge in mind. The creature design is top-notch. I’d love to see Renegade Kid's concept art, especially for a gigantic boss close to the end. Oh, that’s right: PROTIP number three: when you encounter this behemoth, turn around and run away from it. After a little while, your path will become clear, by accident if nothing else.
My problems with the first game—a useless map and no checkpoints—are somewhat cured here. The maps here are smaller, but they all interconnect somehow, and you are rarely locked out of previous areas. The save system also got an overhaul, and now features distinct save points within each area. Unfortunately, some are poorly placed. If I get killed by a boss, and the last save point was ten minutes away, that’s annoying.
Aside from the story mode, there’s not much to see here aside from Survival mode, which is exactly what it sounds like—wipe out hoards of monsters until you die. The game is still a first-rate effort, despite its middling problems. Anyone who enjoyed Southpeak’s previous effort, Moon, will also dig this game. Just follow those PROTIPS that I’ve scattered throughout the review, and your first playthrough will be as enjoyable as my second one.