Developer: Renegade Kid
Publisher: Renegade Kid
Platform: Nintendo 3DS (eShop)
Release Date: December 3, 2015
ESRB: M for Mature
Originally released as Dementium: The Ward for the Nintendo DS, Dementium Remastered is a 3DS facelift of a game that takes quite a bit of influence from classic video game horror. In fact, the original DS version began as an idea for a Silent Hill game, which developer Renegade Kid pitched to Konami, only for the idea to get shot down. As a result, the developer opted to turn the idea into an original game. Thus, Dementium: The Ward was born. And later, remastered.
What Dementium: The Ward did well, Dementium Remastered does just as well, and in some cases better, partly thanks to the hardware it runs on. Unfortunately, whatever shortcomings the original had also made their way into the polished port. And without even looking at the cons of The Ward, there are some noticeable flaws with Dementium Remastered that are hard to forgive. Thankfully, there is enough right with this game to make it a generally enjoyable horror experience.
The most important aspect of any game that wishes to be classified as "horror" is its ability to frighten the player. Or at least try to. Hey, some people are just hard to scare (says the reviewer with a smug face). Dementium Remastered does a pretty good job in that regard. Renegade Kid was clearly looking at classic survival horror games for ideas, as this game certainly feels like something I'd have played on the original PlayStation alongside Silent Hill and Resident Evil.
For starters, Dementium Remastered has a fairly eerie setting that helps the game be delightfully creepy. Of course, the game takes place in a psychiatric hospital, which is a setting with a lot of creepy potential. And it certainly helps that it's dark, requiring you to use a flashlight to see past your otherwise restricted field of vision. And you wanna know the best part? In order to fight monsters, you have to put that flashlight away. That's right, Dementium Remastered does not allow you to hold both your flashlight and a weapon. Which is, in my opinion, a brilliant idea for a survival horror game. It really does add to the terror.
Speaking of the psychiatric hospital in which Dementium Remastered takes place, the reason the protagonist is even there is something that hooks you early on. Why are you there? You want to know the answer to that question, especially after watching the weird opening scene, so you keep playing. Then you hear via news programs and flashbacks that a man apparently murdered his wife while his young daughter watched. Is that man you? And if it is, did you really do it?
The story of Dementium Remastered is certainly interesting enough to hold your attention until you get answers to your questions, even if you find them obvious. Unfortunately, you might find yourself disappointed by an ending that leaves you with more questions than answers. It's clearly little more than a cliffhanger for the sequel, which I found kind of cheap.
Now let's talk about the monsters. You can't really discuss a survival horror game without talking about the creatures that make it such a game. The creatures in Dementium Remastered? Man, lemme tell ya. They're not as horrifying as monsters in some horror games I've played, but they're still pretty damn scary. For starters, these monsters will freak you out before you even see them. Even the most common enemy you encounter has a creepy breathing sound that's frightening simply because you don't know where the thing is. It makes you jump when it comes charging right at you through the darkness. And pretty much every other monster has a really creepy noise to go along with it. Especially the heart-stopping shrieks of the banshees. Those things will scare the [censored] out of you from time to time.
Unfortunately, there are also times when the monsters are more frustrating than they are terrifying -- especially in the final chapter. Now, to be fair, I did choose to play the game on hard mode, but I do think Renegade Kid could have balanced the difficulty a bit better. I'd hate to try the remastered version's exclusive "Demented" mode...
Of course, most of my problems may have been avoided if not for the controls. Playing on the 3DS, I found myself wishing I were holding a controller with more precision. In the end, I found that the best thing to do is probably getting used to the touch control method. Or maybe use a Circle Pad Pro. I'm honestly not sure, as I didn't use one.
I did, however, use the little nub on the New 3DS. I'll tell you right now, it isn't the best way to move the camera while fighting monsters. You can also go with the ABXY option, but that's even worse. Maybe others have had a better time with the controls, but I found myself raging over them. Most of the control options just seem too clunky and imprecise. It wasn't a problem too often for the game to be unplayable, but still.
While we're on the topic of things I don't like about Dementium Remastered, this game has far too many bugs -- some of them almost making me have to start from my last save point. Namely, a certain glitch that caused me to get stuck in a doorway. Luckily, I was able to use my buzz-saw to push my body through. Not only is that the most useful weapon in the game, it also saved me from a grave inconvenience. Then there was this glitch that kept me from picking up health at one point. There was also a bug I noticed that kept certain chapter title screens from triggering. I noticed it when I went from Chapter 4 to Chapter 7, then later from Chapter 10 to Chapter 13. There are some other bugs, but you get the idea. They were mostly very minor problems, but noticeable. And a noticeable bug makes the whole game look bad. Remember that, devs.
Getting back to the not-so-bad aspects of Dementium Remastered, the visuals are pretty nice. The game looked good back when it donned the "The Ward" subtitle, but that was a DS title. So as a simple remaster of said title, the graphics are pretty great. I do wish they could have given the hospital more variety in design, rather than having nearly every area looking the same, but it's forgivable.
As for the music, it's okay. It's certainly no Akira Yamaoka of Silent Hill fame, but it does its job in helping to set the tone of the game well enough. The songs sound pretty outdated for a 3DS game, but again, it originated as a DS game, so that's perfectly understandable.
Oh, and if you were wondering, the 3D effect isn't worth using with this game. I don't know if it's me, but I always seem to get double/triple vision when darkness is involved. And darkness is almost always involved.
At the end of the day (which is the time you should play this game for the full horror experience), Dementium Remastered is a good survival horror game. It just has a few shortcomings that weigh it down a bit, like clunky controls and glitches galore. But behind its unfortunate downsides are plenty of good things that make this a pretty solid and fairly horrifying addition to your digital library. It's not very long, but if you're looking for a good horror game to play on a handheld and haven't played Dementium: The Ward already, give its polished 3DS port a try.
+ Classic survival horror influence
+ Setting is delightfully creepy
+ Mysterious plot that'll hold your attention
+ Frightening monsters
- Clunky and imprecise controls for most control methods
- Riddled with bugs (the developmental kinds)
Overall Score: 7 (out of 10)
Taking quite a bit of influence from the classics, Dementium Remastered is a generally satisfying survival horror experience, regardless of its unfortunate shortcomings.
Disclosure: This game was reviewed using a downloadable code provided by the publisher.