Second time’s the scare
You already had a sleepless night with Dementium? The terror continues and has a name: Dementium II! But is it better or worse? Here’s for you to find out.
How to surprise your audience without losing the fanbase is maybe one of the biggest challenge a game developer has to face. Especially when it comes to survival horror. Now will Dementium II be more of the same or something quite different?
Turn the lights off (again), get the earphones in (again), find your stylus (it’s probably under the bed with the monster) and dive into the mental institution you thought you escaped…
(USA 2007, developer: Renegade Kid, publisher: SouthPeak Games/TopWare Interactive)
A patient tries to escape a mental facility which seems to conduct experiments, and faces more than his personal demons.
Try to change if you will
The biggest change to the original comes in the form of more varied locations and a more straightforward storytelling. More clues are found around the environment, especially letters point the player in the right direction and don’t leave him as helpless as in the first instalment. There is a real story development. Pieces of the past have still to be collected and fit together, but there’s also some progress in the game world which makes the title more accessible to a wider audience.
Change is not always good
This of course poses the question how much survival horror, terror and weirdness/sickness is still left in the game. There are certainly some creepy scenes and the sudden transitions between the real and a monster world (Silent Hill, anyone?) is usually well done, even if it becomes a bit unfair spawning right in front of an enemy or in a room with many of them.
Another problem is that there are quite a lot of locations outside with bright light, so a bit of the tension gets lost along the way. At certain points it plays more like a traditional FPS, especially since there are way more enemies, this time even human beings in the form of some annoying guards and special forces to fight. This is just something the game mechanics with the DS controls are not meant for.
Learn from your mistakes
The developer learned from their mistakes and got rid of some major issues of the original. Now one doesn’t need to pick up a map of each area as it’s already there on the lower DS screen (black areas becoming white or discovered when the player goes through them). Of course this takes away some of the uneasiness, because in the first game one didn’t know where to go at first and was desperately trying to find that certain map. But then again now one can really concentrate on the environment and its puzzles.
Another addition are save points. There aren’t a lot in the levels, but they are enough to prevent that feeling of “Please don’t let me die because I don’t want to start the chapter all over again”. Again this diminishes the terror factor as the player is more inclined to run through the areas knowing the save point isn’t that far away.
Also more suitable for non-hardcore gamers is the option to turn on an easy mode in which enemies get killed with fewer shots and they don’t deliver too much damage.
It’s still far from an easy game as puzzles have become more difficult and backtracking is necessary almost all the time. This becomes quite a problem early on and gets a bit annoying and boring later when it boils down to simple fetch-quests.
Change with your environment
Graphics and sound are excellent as usual (considering the hardware), controls still a bit clunky, and now it’s even possible to use a jump button. Maybe in the time of Doom when a character wasn’t able to jump and could not reach another level without getting keys and opening doors all the time… maybe in that time one wished for a jump-button. But here it’s rather unnecessary and when some platform sequences are introduced at the end, one wishes the developer would never have thought about it, especially since it requires an additional button and doesn’t always react the same way one wants it to.
The second coming
All in all, Dementium II is a worthy sequel when it comes to getting rid of the original gameplay shortcomings (even if it makes the same mistakes with backtracking and rather weak puzzles). It’s another fun survival-horror/FPS-hybrid with emphasis on action which is not found that easy on Nintendo’s usually family-friendly portable console. The only thing which is a bit disappointing: more accessibility results in fewer scares and originality, as the game loses some of its identity.
BTW, isn’t it interesting how the cover looks very similar to that Possession movie?
And another great promo trailer (BTW, the booklet is done like a leaflet from that medical center):