Horror is an art form. That feeling of utter terror and despair as you grasp tighter onto your seat in a movie theater, or scream while playing the latest Amnesia. It's always tickled the human psyche for some peculiar reason.
The latest game to try and scare the bejesus out of us is Dementium 2, originally a Nintendo DS game by Renegade Kid which has now been ported over to the PC by Memetic Games. The handheld version received quite positive reviews, so we were intrigued to see how well the game handles itself on the big screen with a lot more firepower under the hood.
Dementium 2 begins as your character, William Redmoor, awakens from being unconscious for five weeks in a mental institute. Apparently something went wrong with his brain surgery and instead of curing Mr. Redmoor, the surgeon somehow unleashed diabolical beings that were trapped inside the patients head. Or something. The story makes almost no sense and it's practically impossible to follow. Don't go thinking the ending (which is upon you in about 4 hours) gets any better; the player is just left there, wondering what the hell just happened.
The game could be described as a first-person horror shooter; you explore an asylum in search for answers while fighting the forces of darkness. The game plays just like any other FPS game with the exception that actually playing Dementium 2 is a pain in the ass; the controls are far from being smooth and aiming is a real chore. Every time you move in a direction, your character keeps 'floating' in that direction even though you've stopped pressing the keyboard minutes ago. This gets to be extremely annoying and completely kills the gameplay. This game is a textbook example of a poor and rushed port.
As with any other FPS game Dementium 2 has various weapons which help you in dealing 12-gauge justice. These weapons include melee (knife, sledgehammer, even a bone saw) and projectile weapons (from a revolver to a shotgun, nothing special here). Thanks to the inferior aiming mechanics though, hitting anything is a guessing game. And yes, even with melee weapons. The best way to hit anything is to equip the bone saw and run around a room that has enemies in it with your left mouse button pressed. Absolutely ridiculous but thoroughly effective.
The enemies you encounter vary from small, caterpillar-like slimes to gigantic demons, and they've all been designed with some uniquely grotesque beings in mind. Too bad the design has failed and the creatures look more silly than scary. The element of surprise could have spurred some jump-scares, but unfortunately the music changes the instant there's an enemy close by so you'll be expecting it. This means more often than not you'll be the one doing the scaring. The denizens of this asylum also have a bizarre inclination to spawn right beside you much of the time. It feels akin to a curtain dropping at the theatre and get a look at the make-up department beavering away. Occasionally you'll encounter huge bosses but these aren't much scarier or tougher than the regular enemies; a knife will suffice (honestly).
The creature AI is... nonexistent. Every single enemy you ever encounter in the game has only one purpose in mind; getting to you using the fastest route possible. Think Doom. And the definition of 'fastest route' doesn't discriminate; whether there's a bookshelf or a huge chasm in between the player and the enemy, the AI WILL try to cross it. Occasionally you'll also encounter guards, some of them even armed with weapons, and these are the guys who were obviously the last ones in the line when the AI routines were assigned; they just stand there, shooting at you without even twitching when you shoot them back. I've had more intense shoot-outs with a calculator.
The game maps are extremely small, only a room or two, and there's a small loading pause between each section. Perfectly understandable when utilizing the limited processing power of the Nintendo DS but as a HD PC port this is unacceptable. When you have all that potential power and huge amounts of RAM at your disposal, why not use it? More proof of Dementium 2's Nintendo DS heritage is the recycling of already visited maps; you're constantly running back and forth trying to find that one key that opens the next door. Sure it adds hours to the playtime but it's hardly enjoyable. The later levels are also a pain in the ass; quick-death jumping with the last save point miles back. The fact that the cut-scenes can't be skipped doesn't exactly encourage you to play the same spot over and over again. Outrageous.
There are some puzzles dotted about which are a welcome change of pace. Sadly there are way too few of them and they're too easy. They were probably designed to challenge the game's IQ-deficient enemies. A real shame. You'll also pick up a bundle of useful items which include health pills, adrenaline and antidotes. Health pills heal you, adrenaline makes your movements faster, while antidote doesn't seem to have any use since the main protagonist didn't seem to get poisoned at any point. Might be a small bug.
Technically, the game is a mess. The gameplay is so tedious that the whole game is borderline unplayable. There are technical flaws all around, most notably tearing textures even with vertical synchronization. The graphics look extremely ugly and the animations ridiculous, especially the creature movements. The grotesque creatures look just like that; grotesque. Just not in the way the graphical designer planned to. The list goes on.
The audio doesn't fare much better either. In fact the audio might pip the graphics for the wooden spoon award. The creatures sound like desperate farm animals and the "dynamic music" spoils every bit of tension there might have been. The main protagonist really takes the cake though; when jumping over obstacles your character screams like his leg has just been severed.
There's really very little positive to glean from Dementium 2 HD. Awful gameplay paired with horrible graphics and sounds, along with mechanics that might have been great in a handheld device but don't cut it these days. Or any other day for that matter. Do yourself a favour and steer clear of Dementium 2 HD. Or if you must have it, get the NDS version instead. You have been warned.