Dementium II is a sequel to the 2008 first-person horror game, Dementium: The Ward. Following up on the horror of the first game, William Redmoor is back to fight his way through hordes of evil demons and nightmares. Attempting an ambitious first-person shooter style horror game is a big feat considering the limitations that comes with the Nintendo DS, so does this new survival-horror game provide big enough scares to lose grip of the DS, or does it fail to make players even flinch?
Dementium II does impress in quite a few ways, and mainly in the visuals department. Dementium II's developer, Renegade Kid, have done a great job of pushing the visual envelope on the Nintendo DS, and it really shows in all the detail put into the character models and textures. Keeping the amount of action and depth on screen while maintaining a rock solid frame rate is a very impressive feat. Not to mention the shading used with the flashlight effect that amplifies a targeted area to visualize enemies from afar in poorly lit rooms. Granted, there is a bit of a texture problem when it comes to surroundings, but compared to everything done with the limitations, there is still a great sense of immersion crucial to a horror game.
Unfortunately a lot of this impressive visual work comes undone when sound becomes involved in the game. Many of the sounds of monsters, as well as the music, becomes almost immediately tiresome since it is very limited in terms of the catalogue of noises each monster has. Each monster has about one noise each, which ranges from low gurgles to incredibly loud and irritating screams. Sure, a lot of these monsters were meant to sound frightening, but coming out of tinny speakers and incredibly compressed, they just sound like annoying and creaky sound effects. At least there is some really good voice acting to act as a sort of saving grace for the sound quality.
Tied together, these aspects should make for a great horror game, but again the horror aspect of the game sort of falls flat. Sure, the enemies are gory, the hospital is a creepy environment, there is blood everywhere, and the list of things to make this games environment fairly scary are all there. The one big factor missing is the actual scare factor. Nothing really happens to make the player jump, or even make things tense. The only moments that actually create tension are when the player is trying to sneak past some shadow monsters which send William into a monster closet that resets him to the entrance. The presentation was there for a good scare or some creepy tension, unfortunately it never really happened.
The enemies themselves also don't help the situation of being very frightening. Yes, the enemies are well designed and are fairly frightening to look at, but they suffer from an odd animation loop that, when attacked at the right speed up close, can make it easy to kill enemies with no effort or skill required. The only problem with attacking up close though, is that the hit detection is pretty atrocious. Many enemies can be swung at with a knife or sledgehammer, but many times to no avail. Not to mention how many hits it usually takes to do anything to these demons.
Thankfully the guns come into play very early on, which are definitely much more accurate than the shiv or the sledgehammer, and also cause much more damage. Being a traditional survival-horror game does make coming across ammo difficult though, so far to many times ammo runs out and it's back to slashing away sloppily at the enemies, hoping to kill them before running out of health. Sure ammo preservation for bigger enemies is the way to go, but it just gets frustrating to stab every generic small monster that comes along. The guns do work nicely though with the first-person shooting crosshairs being very tight with great accuracy using the bottom screen as a mouse of sorts.
The shortness of ammo and health also doesn't help when so much backtracking happens, as along with no health or ammo replishment, there's also no access to save points. On multiple occasions this becomes a very bothersome and aggravating step in the game. One thing piles on top of another causing a collapse into utter frustration. For example, a player could reach a save point, work back through multiple areas of enemies, run out of ammo and health packs, and then before reaching the next save point die from an annoying bug monster due to the terrible hit detection. This could be around twenty minutes of progress, and this could happen multiple times in a row which is in no way fun.
The game as a whole has a story that is decent and holds its own weight as far as intrigue, but not so much for something to terrify or shock. The story lasts around six hours, though a lot of this time is spent backtracking and restarting from save points. So in reality, the story is probably somewhere around three or four hours of unique new content. Beyond that there is also a survival mode, but it doesn't really feel worth playing since the combat gets too frustrating up close.
Overall, Dementium II does visuals almost like no other game on the DS, unfortunately poor and outdated gameplay mechanics really hinder the game immensely. Not to say that there are no redeeming qualities, it's just that there are too many negatives to really outweigh the good and it makes the game feel mediocre on the whole. If Dementium II just had a little better scare factor and ditched some junky game mechanics, it could have been a real winner.