Review: Dementium Remastered (3DS eShop)

The stuff of nightmares, in a good way.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 12/23/2015 09:00 4 Comments     ShareThis
The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for...
Polished visual and control upgrades compared to the original; great presentation values; creepy!; decent challenge
Poison Mushroom for...
Boss battle needed some tweaking, too easy to lose track of foes and still take hits

Dementium: The Ward was quite the surprise when it landed on Nintendo DS back in 2007. Nintendo platforms generally don’t offer too many M-rated games, for one thing, and for another, Dementium was a first-person shooter, another relatively rare sighting on the company’s hardware. With Dementium, developer Renegade Kid delivered a frightening survival-horror title that pushed the boundaries of what DS was capable of from a technical standpoint, and provided some genuine scares with its taught gameplay. Dementium Remastered is a modified version of that DS cult-classic that aims to provide better graphics, Circle Pad Pro/C-Stick support, and fine-tuned gameplay. Renegade Kid was successful on all fronts, and though some of the original’s flaws remain, this is a fine addition to the 3DS eShop.

The game starts off as bleak as it gets, with the main character awakening in an abandoned, dilapidated hospital. Blood and gore line almost every surface, with desks, beds, and hospital equipment all in disarray. Light is a fairly scarce commodity. Worst of all? The blaring PA recording warning everyone to evacuate. Alone, the player starts off completely defenseless with only a flashlight in hand, followed by a feeble police baton after that. It’s some masterful setup on the part of Renegade Kid, immediately establishing the mood and tone of the game from the second Dementium begins. Graphically, this is a real step up from how the title appeared on DS, with the more modern handheld’s 3D effect really well implemented, to boot. Enemy design is also appropriately disturbing; the patients/experiments of the hospital come in a number of grizzled shapes and sizes, and there’s enough variety to keep the action fresh.

What makes Remastered particularly scary is the sense of helplessness fostered by the weapon mechanics. The flashlight and a weapon can’t be held at the same time. Which wouldn’t be so bad… if the halls of the hospital weren’t so often flooded with darkness. Without the light, enemies can easily rush the player from the various closets and rooms that they hide inside of. Wandering with a gun or club in hand at the sacrifice of the flashlight might seem like a simple workaround, but when I said the halls are dark, I meant it; good luck making it through the game in pitch blackness! It might sound gimmicky (after all, who can’t hold two things at once?), but I found it to be as enjoyable today as it was when the DS original was still fresh. The number of foes is never so great that battles feel unfair, and the tension created by those moments of defenselessness is genuine.

One of the improvements featured in Remastered comes from the lack of enemy respawns. Moving from one area of the hospital to the next in the first Dementium would result in baddies who had been previously dispatched returning to make the player’s life miserable. With backtracking and exploration being a big part of the experience here, I was thankful that Renegade Kid made the wise decision to eschew that particular headache. Another helpful modification includes more save points, which are a real boon to any gamer on the go when it comes to a portable title. The controls are also wonderfully done. Using the original setup (the Circle Pad for movement and the touch screen or face buttons to aim the player’s flashlight/weapon) is still very workable, but having the option to utilize either the Circle Pad Pro or the C-Stick on a New 3DS was yet another smart alteration. As far as remakes go, Renegade Kid kept exactly what it needed to and jettisoned or changed what had to go.

If there’s one major hangup that’s carried over to Remastered, it’s the insanely tough boss fights. There are six bosses in total, and each of them is like a starving junkyard dog going for a juicy steak (note: you are the steak). It was in these battles that I died the most, with some encounters sullied by bosses who became frustratingly difficult to target and attack. Not because I couldn’t aim, but because I couldn’t actually see them to begin with; some bosses fade into the background and become obscured, making it nearly impossible to get a bead on them. Of course, the player has no such luxury of concealment, so expect some cheap shots that should have been otherwise avoidable. Still, it’s a small irritation that doesn’t diminish the clever puzzles that pop up during exploration and solid, if somewhat simplistic, combat with regular opponents.

Dementium Remastered reminds me of some of Nintendo’s more recent remakes in that it doesn’t go too far trying to reinvent the wheel. Renegade Kid showed some admirable restraint in modifying the original Dementium without sacrificing the things about it that drew fans to the game in the first place. With polished visuals and controls, a modified difficulty curve, and presentation values that are still very effective at giving players the creeps, Remastered is certainly worth a look for 3DS owners. Outside of some obnoxious boss battles, this is a great game from a continuously creative developer.

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