Review: Dementium: The Ward (DS)

Andrew Sheivachman | 17 Jan 2008 15:31
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Coupled with enemies that regenerate when you reenter an area, it is often wise to just run past hordes of enemies instead of fighting them. Health and ammo regenerate, as well, but it quickly becomes a chore to fight the same enemies in almost every room. Enemies can kill you with ease if you don’t approach them correctly, and often you can’t even see from where you are under attack. Deadly slugs that pervade throughout the game, for instance, often drop from above and circle under your feet, making them impossible to spot.

The exploration and puzzle-solving sequences of the game are uninspired at best. Most of the adventure elements of the game take place based on notes you find lying strewn about the hospital, and the quests tend to suffer from a bit too much key finding. Thankfully there is nothing here along the lines of “insert hawk crest into hawk crest receptacle,” but some of the puzzles remain a little preposterous.

(Minor non-essential spoilers ahead.) One early puzzle, for instance, asks you to play a certain melody on a demon baby piano, which left me baffled due to my absolute lack of technical musical knowledge. Two phone calls to a musically-inclined friend later, I realized that a shiny piece of paper lying on a chair outside the room in question showed me exactly what to do. Most puzzles in the game can be solved easily, if you find their corresponding shiny pieces of paper, eliminating much of the potential challenge and suspense. Not to mention the fact that there tend to be dozens of non-readable, non-shiny pieces of paper strewn about everywhere.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of Dementium is its save system: The game auto-saves as you move from room to room but kicks you back to the beginning of the chapter if you die. This design choice essentially punishes gamers for trying to stand and fight against groups of enemies that can quickly devastate you.

The game’s chapters range from two minutes up to 30 minutes in length, so it becomes supremely frustrating to die after a boss fight and have to replay a long level you just beat.

Dementium offers no multiplayer mode and virtually no replay value, so it's difficult to recommend it to anyone except the most dedicated and patient survival/horror aficionados. FPS gamers will probably be bored and frustrated thanks to the game’s lack of variety and painful technical limitations, while adventure fans will ultimately be disappointed by the lack of rewarding exploration in the game. A derivative aesthetic and repetitive design mars what could have been an awesome debut for developer Renegade Kid.

But I must admit one thing: I’m eagerly looking forward to their follow-up.

Bottom line: Dementium: The Ward is the perfect surprise for survival/horror die-hards, but no one else.

Recommendation: Rent it.

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