By Former Contributor Nathan Stiles / August 8th, 2014
|Title||Dementium II HD|
|Publisher||Digital Tribe Games|
|Release Date||December 17, 2013|
|Rating||ESRB – Mature|
Dementium II HD is a PC remake of a DS horror title of the same name. While the original was praised for its innovation and the possibility of gamers finally being able to take a full-fledged horror game on the go, does the HD remake hold up when compared to the much broader and more polished sea of horror titles on the market?
Graphically, the game is far from groundbreaking. This game is an HD port of a DS title, and somehow manages to be less impressive than its original version. Obviously, the graphics are technically better, but the transition makes them lose all of the charm and grittiness that the original had. You are still in dark environments where blood stains the walls, and deformed creatures could be behind every corner, but everything feels too plain and sterile in places where it shouldn’t. As counter-intuitive as this is going to sound, the environments in Dementium II HD feel unnatural and uninhabited in the wrong ways. I never felt like this place was abandoned because it never felt like it had any life to begin with. The enemy models quickly lose their power, as well; the image quality leaving very little to the imagination. After you’ve seen each creature once, there’s really no interest left in them. Add to that the fact the the pre-rendered cutscenes were either intentionally made to stagger in a way where it drops frames or it actually IS dropping frames (on my PC which easily handled the game on the best graphical settings) proved that it wasn’t exactly up to snuff. I once heard that, when it comes to horror films, they generally look better on a smaller budget and are forced to use more creative and less overindulgent effects, and I never really understood that until I played this game. I played the DS version of Dementium II after completing the HD version to compare the two titles, and, after doing so, I found the DS version more consistently scary, despite being on such a small screen.
The sound design is also unimpressive, ranging from average to just plain bad. Some of the voice samples sound like they were ripped straight out of the original version while the rest have obviously been enhanced, but do little to help the experience. In fact, some sound design choices actually hurt the game, specifically when it comes to music cues which alert you of the enemies presence. In a lot of games, this is used to better effect; making you feel wary and nervous of your unknown predators, but in this title, it became a tool. I’d turn a corner just to hear the music play which gave me more than enough time to set up an attack and get through a room completely unscathed. Aside from the sound design hurting the gameplay, the music itself is unmemorable, though it did succeed at setting the mood and tone. The best I can say is that the sound design was functional.
I would love to talk about the game’s plot, but what little is there is not fleshed out, if you will pardon the pun. The basic premise is that you are a man who wakes up in a mental ward, you may or may not have killed your wife and it’s assumed you are trying to break out. There will never be a conclusion to this ‘mystery’ or to whether or not you escape. For a game’s story to be interesting, it needs to have build up and pay off, and this game is lacking both. It’s a common misconception that you keep people interested in your story by giving them a bunch of questions, but that’s not the case. To keep people interested in a story, you have to slowly reveal information and give answers, which if done well will create NEW questions in the observer’s mind. If you don’t reveal any answers, your story is simply spinning its wheels, and players will most likely either lose interest or feel like they wasted their time.
As you can probably tell from my previous statements, this game’s ‘horror’ elements wear thin rather quickly. I’m not going to lie and say it was never scary, in fact, for the first 30 minutes or so, I was downright unnverved by the creepy setting and the helplessness I felt… but shortly after beating the first boss, I realized that there was really nothing to fear. There were a total of two times in the game where I truly jumped, the first being a VERY well-placed enemy in one of the few times the designers did NOT ruin a scare with a poorly-placed musical cue (I’d like to note that they also punctuated this amazing moment by having this be the enemy type’s first appearance in the game). The second was during a particular boss fight with a witch. At this moment, the game takes away your sight almost completely and the design on this character made my skin crawl for reasons I honestly don’t understand myself. Let’s just say that I wanted to complete this fight as quickly as possible, just because I wanted the feeling to go away.
Dementium II HD plays like a first-person shooter, and controls decently enough for a game of the genre (though I will admit the hit detection of melee weapons did seem off at times). Speaking of hit detection, with the exception of bosses, it doesn’t seem to matter where you aim on the enemy, as hitting any part of the creature’s body does the same amount of damage, which is rather disappointing. Weapon strength doesn’t seem to matter very much either. For example, the starting knife does more damage than the sledgehammer does, which seems rather counter-intuitive. None of this breaks the game, but it certainly broke the immersion. What does break the game, however, is that every enemy in the game can be easily killed using a hit-and-run tactic with only the knife, making other weapons feel almost completely unnecessary. This, mixed with the generous offering of ammo and health pick-ups, really makes it feel like none of the enemies are a threat to you.
When you aren’t focusing on combat, the game is mostly about exploration, which the game does fairly well. While the environments aren’t all that well-crafted, they do have a good amount of variety for such a short game, and I really appreciated that, as it kept things from getting stale too quickly. There were a few moments where the game goes dark and transfers you to a warped reality of the same area. This often gives you access to new portions of the world (and, of course, surrounds you with even more enemies). The well-made map makes exploration easy and much more enjoyable than it otherwise would have been, letting you know what portions of the map you don’t yet have access to. Unlocking these locations normally only takes you traveling to another room to find a key or solving a simple puzzle. Overall, the exploration in itself is decently done, but nothing groundbreaking.
Truth be told, I really think that Dementium II HD fails as a horror game because, after the first half an hour or so, it’s just not scary anymore. The fact that every enemy in the game can be killed with a simple knife, as well as the poorly-implemented environments makes the horror elements wear out quickly. All that being said, while this isn’t necessarily a great game, it is still one I had a lot of fun with, and one that I enjoyed enough to make me go back and not only play the original version of the game on the DS, but also play its predecessor (which is scarier than its sequel, but not as well-crafted of a game). In the end, Dementium II was only an impressive feat because of the limitations it had to work around and the novelty of having a full-fledged survival horror game on a handheld device. Once you take away those limitations, the game really begins to show how unimpressive it is. The terrible thing for me is that, despite this game being very flawed, I couldn’t help but enjoy it, and I’m sure there are others that would feel the same. I recommend this five-hour journey for horror novices only, and at the low cost of $10 on Steam, it may just be worth the risk.
Review copy provided by the publisher
Dementium II HD is available on Amazon:
Dementium II HDPCReview