Still demented after all these years.
Dementium: The Ward was a Nintendo DS game developed by Renegade Kid and published by Gamecock back in 2007. Now, eight years later (wow), Renegade Kid has revisited the game, polished it up, addressed many common criticisms, and released it on the 3DS eShop. How does this first-person horror game stand up in 2015? Surprisingly well, but it still has its issues.
The game’s controls will be immediately familiar to those who’ve already played Renegade Kid’s Moon Chronicles, though there are more options for the Circle Pad Pro (or New 3DS XL) this time around. There’s also a handy “notepad” function which you can use to jot down clues for later. Weapon selection is done with the touch screen or by cycling your arsenal with the D-pad. Yes, the electric buzz-saw is back. Yes, it’s still just as badass as it was in 2007.
The game’s big selling point is its atmosphere: wandering through the largely-abandoned hallways of the blood-stained hospital, a flickering flashlight guiding your way, still works. The game’s sound design is also worthy of praise. Each enemy has a distinct noise associated with it, so even if you can’t see the bloody torso crawling towards you, you can definitely hear it, and in many ways, that’s just as unnerving. Unfortunately, your field of vision without the flashlight is pretty much limited to the end of whatever gun you’re holding instead, so once you pull your weapon out, there’s always a brief period of blindness before the monster comes within your view again, which can be disorienting.
There are also more save points, which is a huge blessing. However, the map does not display save points or rooms you’ll want to return to (like a room with a locked briefcase or a locked door with a code) so you’ll be put through some aimless wandering if you don’t make good use of the notebook function. The map also isn’t the default lower screen display—your health is—which means you’ll be tapping the “map” icon with increasing frequency as the floors of the asylum grow more complex.
The game’s central issue is that, frustratingly, the hallways and offices of the asylum all look the same, with not even a change in wallpaper color from one floor to the next. You can get turned around very easily, and one wonders how many closets one hospital needs. There’s also the typical Silent Hill problem of checking every door, and finding that 75% of them are locked. Thankfully, ammo seems more frequent than it was in 2007, and most enemies don’t respawn after you leave a room (except those blasted worm monsters).
While I like the game’s sound effects, I’m not too keen on its central musical theme, which simply cycles the same 12-note progression endlessly. Now, there is different (but not great) music during boss fights and music is not omnipresent, but where it pops up, I felt inspired to turn the volume down. The game looks good, with redone textures, and I feel like enemy movement is smoother and less herky-jerky. And even though he looks better, the wheelchair boss is still a sunnuvabitch. The worm creatures look slimy now, which is gross but kind of awesome.
One other thing to keep in mind: I did experience some glitches: items that couldn’t be picked up or getting stuck between objects or in closets to the point where I had to restart from the last save point. Stranger were times where I'd try to back out of the map and be taken to the "Items" screen instead. These weren’t huge inconveniences, but you should be aware of them. Don’t go into a closet if you don’t absolutely have to.