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Dementium: The Ward (Switch) Review

by John Rairdin - October 11, 2023, 9:10 am EDT
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A DS classic returns but at what cost?

Dementium: The Ward is making its way to Nintendo Switch sixteen years after its initial release on Nintendo DS. That DS game is a somewhat iconic release for fans of the platform. It was the first game from developer Renegade Kid (now known as Atooi), and pulled off on DS what was usually limited to big first-party releases. Dementium was a fully 3D, first-person, survival horror game that ran at a buttery 60fps. It was a technical masterpiece on the DS and I myself quite enjoyed it. Its actual gameplay mechanics aren’t horribly deep, but it delivered an experience one couldn’t really find elsewhere on the system. Eight years later, a remastered version was released on 3DS. It made some great quality of life adjustments, updated the visuals to the level of the 3DS, and was overall a very solid remastering effort, especially for a small indie studio.

Now we come to the Switch version. It keeps all the quality of life changes from the 3DS remaster while removing the need for stylus controlled aiming or a Circle Pad Pro. Unfortunately, the move to Switch isn’t perfect and comes with some odd limitations and omissions.

Dementium sees you playing as a patient who wakes up in a deranged and horror-filled mental hospital. Strange zombie-like creatures roam the halls, giant leeches crawl from the ductwork, and powerful bosses lurk in the darkness. As you wake up in your room, you’ll quickly stumble into the first issue with this version of Dementium. In both previous versions, you could use the touch screen to scribble notes. This allowed you to track things like door codes, or hints for puzzles. The Switch version doesn’t let you do this, but for some reason you can still see the notebook in your inventory; it just doesn’t do anything. Yes, you can work around it by taking screenshots on the Switch instead, but it's a bizarre omission and I kept double checking to make sure I hadn’t simply missed a button, given that I could see the notebook sitting right there.

As you explore the hospital, you’ll find a flashlight, and slowly start acquiring weapons to fight off monsters. All of these handle much better in a traditional dual-stick setting than they ever did with stylus controls. It isn’t hard to argue that this is probably the best controlling version of Dementium. I actually found it made the entire experience feel significantly easier and decided to bump up the difficulty (another nice addition brought forward from the 3DS version).

When it comes to brand new features, the Switch version really only has one. The game now allows you to swap between two video modes; Retro and Retro CRT. I found the absence of a third mode called Modern to be a little strange. I’d assumed from trailers that this would essentially be an HD port of the 3DS version, but that isn’t the case. From a graphical perspective, this is almost exactly the 3DS version. The game renders at a resolution of 426x240. That’s the same vertical resolution as the 3DS and only a horizontal boost of 26 pixels, owing to the difference in aspect ratio between the Switch and a 3DS. There is a pass of anti-aliasing (specifically FXAA), but at this resolution it does nothing to hide the underlying output. One can make the argument that this is an aesthetic choice, but I still find it extremely disappointing given that Dementium was a technical showpiece on DS and the 3DS version continued that trend. Seeing the Switch version simply be the 3DS version with a broken notebook and a CRT filter seems antithetical to the legacy of this game. I have to hammer home that texture resolution appears unchanged; there are no new graphical effects such as shadows from your flashlight, and rain outside windows is still just an animated texture right on the surface of the window that updates at quarter rate. All this with a shop listing that claims it was "Built from the ground up for Nintendo Switch." Even just running the exact copy of the game that I received as a review copy on 3DS back in 2015 on an emulator at a meager 900p, reveals a significantly better looking game.

I’m extremely disheartened by the evident lack of care that went into this Switch release. Even the most basic Switch conversions of classic games have included a resolution bump if not a full overhaul. Nintendo’s own N64 library on NSO, which also has its roots in 240p, manages to run at 720p on Switch. Add to that a broken element of the game's basic features and this version becomes much harder to justify. I like Dementium a lot. This and Renegade Kid’s next DS release Moon were staples of this era for me. While I appreciate that I can access it on a new platform, seeing it dumped here so unceremoniously without even an adjustment to the internal resolution is very disappointing.


  • Controls well
  • Smooth 60fps
  • No alternative is given for notebook functionality
  • No graphical update from 3DS version
  • Notebook item doesn't work but still displays in inventory
  • Runs at 240p

A review copy was provided by the developer.

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Game Profile

Genre Shooter
Developer Atooi

Worldwide Releases

na: Dementium: The Ward
Release Oct 12, 2023
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