Dementium II Preview: A Mature DS Game With "Hell Moments"

Another horror FPS on DS? All too rare.

What Is It?
Dementium II is an early 2010 sequel to last year's horror handheld game, Dementium: The Ward. Development studio Renegade Kid returns to its series using the first-person engine developed for the team's other DS game, Moon. The game begins with protagonist William Redmoor waking up in a new ward, post brain-surgery. In this hospital/prison, he is soon slipping in and out of a nightmare version of his surroundings, trying to figure out and shoot through his problems.

Dementium II Preview: A Mature DS Game With "Hell Moments"

What We Saw
I ventured a little past the game's first boss for a total playing time of about 10 minutes. In that time I left my cell, stabbed some guards, experienced a few hallucinatory "hell moments" (term provided by a public relations rep) that made the ward look like it was in, well, hell, killed some monsters, beat a demon of a boss, returned to a normal perspective, got a pistol and shot some guards and caused more hell monsters to die.

How Far Along Is It?
The game was developed in six months and is essentially done, a pair of public relations representatives told me during my hands-on time with the game in Kotaku's New York office. The time between now and Dementium 2's February release will be used for polish and bug-squashing, I was told.

What Needs Improvement?
Save Points: I was told that the developers reacted complaints from players of the first game and allowed for more frequent saving, but the auto-saving did not kick in before the first boss and sent me back to the beginning of the game after the beast chomped me to death. Modern gamers, for better or worse, expect tighter checkpointing. UPDATE: A PR rep for the game informs me that players can manually save at key moments in the game, including one right before the boss fight. So that bit of re-hashing that I experienced won't happen to careful players.

Pressure-Inventory: Most of the game's controls are good, with stylus movement on the bottom screen controlling your first-person view while you move with the d-pad or face buttons and fire with a shoulder button. You tap the screen to duck. The inventory is accessed with a press of an icon on the lower screen, but it goes away if you lift the stylus. So to select an item, the player must press, then drag the stylus toward whatever they want to access in their inventory and release. This might be a good option for on-the-fly item-selection, but I'd rather not have to worry about applying constant pressure and drawing my way to the item I want.

Dementium II Preview: A Mature DS Game With "Hell Moments"

What Should Stay The Same?
The Hell Moments: Some games with alternate incarnations of their game world — such as The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past and its dark world — allow the player to manually switch between realities. Dementium II presents a simpler but interesting developer-controlled system. When the game is programmed to, it will turn this prison you're in into a hellish collection of rooms and hallways. Demons with fanged mouths where their stomachs should be will rush you. On the sidelines, a man strapped to a torture rack will be impaled by a drill suspended from the ceiling. And then we will back to regular prison, guards with shock sticks and patients wailing from their beds. This is all unpleasant in that good, creepy horror way.

The Audio: Played with headphones, as just about any portable horror game is best experienced, the game seeps the player in an eerie, discordant swirl of scratches and screams, groans and creaks. Again, this is unpleasantness in a good horror way.

Dementium 2 benefits from a solid engine and the smartly made misery of its horror trappings. It may also benefit from a promised geographic diversity that will bring players outside of its ward.

But it is, as an entry in one of gaming's most popular and competitive genres, the FPS. I had too little time to judge the quality and pace of its shooting nor can I guess the appetite and acceptance among DS gamers for a first-person shooter. This game could appeal to a rare taste or a welcome relief.