Discovering Something That I Missed – Dementium: The Ward
I’ve said numerous times over the last couple of years that I’m not the type of person to play scary games. I don’t like the feeling of being scared, or not being completely in control of a situation. I have played very few survival horror games or anything that would be remotely scary. Resident Evil? Out. Silent Hill? No thank you. Dead Space? I’ll pass. It’s just not the type of thing I enjoy playing. However, every once in a while I’ll see something that I have to play and I’ve always thought the DS was a place of safety. You can’t really make a scary game when all of the monsters look like they came straight out of Minecraft can you? Oh Lord, was I wrong.
My only real experience with Renegade Kid and the twisted mind that is Jools Watsham has mainly been recent games on the 3DS like Mutant Mudds and Planet Crashers. I heard of some of the companies past work like Dementium and Moon, but I hadn’t actually played any of those games. Well, this week I found a copy of the first Dementium game at my local GameStop. I decided what the heck. I should probably at least try this game and see what it’s all about. I played Resident Evil: Revelaitons on the 3DS. Surely, it can’t be any “scarier” than that.
From the moment I pressed the start button things immediately got crazy. I was greeted with quick flashes of images. Things like a man strapped into a wheelchair, bloodstained hallways, and a small girl whose appearance can only be considered ghostly. It’s very quick cuts, all straight out of popular horror movies. The music is eery, screechy and cacophonous. It was effective. I was instantly on guard for what was going to happen and I could feel myself tensing up.
As soon as I’m given control over the character, I notice it’s very dark. I can only see a few feet in front of me and I have nothing to defend myself with. The only sounds I hear are ambient noises from the room and the constant drum of my heartbeat. I can explore the area around me, but there’s nothing in my room but some shelving, a hospital bed and the accompanying equipment. There’s a key to the door lying on the floor that I pick up and use to unlock my room, gaining access to the hospital complex. I’m afraid to move because it’s dark and I don’t know where I’m supposed to go. All of the doors on the floor are locked, but there’s a voice coming over the loudspeaker telling me of some kind of emergency and that I should proceed to the nearest stairwell.
I’m only about three chapters into this game, but so far everything is designed to make you feel helpless. It’s hard to see. When you do finally get a flashlight you sometimes have to choose whether to see where you’re going or defend yourself against the undead denizens of the hospital. I’ve seen some people talk about this as a negative, but in the context of who you are playing as, it works. People trained with using lights and weapons together would be able to hold both properly, but as someone who hasn’t had that training it would be very difficult to do effectively.
The atmosphere does a lot to really get across the feeling the developers were trying to portray. The environments and the characters, like I said earlier, begin to look like they came out of Minecraft if you get to close. However, the amount of detail Renegade Kid put into the game is simply astounding, especially for a game on the DS. The 3D environments really convey a good sense of space. There are plenty of things going on in the environment like the flashing of emergency lights, static on the monitors at security stations and the sounds of the hospital equipment. Wearing headphones I really got a good sense of where things were based on the sounds they were making and the direction they were coming from. When you’re outside and the lightning flashes, it briefly lights up the area around you. The flashlight you hold really feels like a real flashlight. It lights up a small area and anything not directly in the beam is much darker and harder to see.
The levels are built for a handheld system. The first two levels are very short; lasting only about five minutes or so. The third chapter, where I currently am, is much longer and it’s giving me the feeling of not wanting to be where I am anymore. I’m in the Infant Ward. I’ve spent time in hospitals where the babies are taken care of and it’s not a pleasant experience. Seeing the toys on the ground, drawings done by children on the walls and the stations where premature babies are held — all of which is covered in blood — was pretty unsettling. At one point I saw those stations and almost expected to see infants in them, but what was there was almost worse. A child’s piano is even used as a gameplay element at one point with the word DEAD scrawled on the wall above it with the keys out of tune.
I was not expecting to be as immersed in the game as I am. It’s creepy, disturbing and scary. Surprisingly, I love it. I know the game isn’t very long and I plan to finish it. The gameplay itself is very solid. The controls for a first-person shooter on the DS work really well. Everything is easily accessible on the touch screen. If it’s this creepy this early in, I can only imagine how it’s going to be when I get to the end.
Jools Watsham and Renegade Kid are big fans of the 3DS eShop. They’re working on a 3D remake of one of their games now. I would be very interested to see what they could do with a revisit of this franchise. Whether it’s a 3D remake or a third game in the franchise, I’d be on board.