If there's one good thing we can say about the criminally insane, it's that the messed up stuff inside their head isn't spilling out of their ears and into the real world. Unfortunately, we can't even say that for heroic mentalcase William Redmoor. His inner demons have escaped, and now it's up to him to cram them back into his broken brain.
Nightmarish apparitions, twisted demons and backtracking FROM HELL abound as Redmoor tries to escape Bright Dawn Treatment Center with his life and what's left of his sanity. This is the sick world of Dementium II, and we're going to review it, so why not read on?
Dementium II (DS)
Picking up where the first game left off, William Redmoor awakes at Bright Dawn after receiving brain surgery to help quell his madness. Unfortunately, it's not too long before Redmoor realizes that things aren't right, as "Phase 2" of his treatment involves the unleashing of his mind's most grotesque monsters. Mixing cutscenes with in-game storytelling and various notes strewn across the map, Dementium II attempts to produce an approach to narrative that apes console games, and is surprisingly successful in doing so. The plot certainly isn't anything special, and the dialog even less so, but the game's premise remains fairly interesting throughout and is at least solid enough to keep players involved, which is all you can ask for.
Like the last game, Dementium II is a horror FPS in which Redmoor constantly fights off demons with a variety of melee weapons and firearms. Starting off his adventure with only a humble shank, William upgrades to sledgehammers, revolvers, shotguns and more as the game progresses. The most striking thing about the gameplay is how fluid and well adapted the controls are. While players may accidentally jump more times than they intend thanks to the ever-dodgy double tap, moving around with the D-pad and touchscreen is effortless and everything about the interface is perfectly placed for convenience and comfort. Portable games constantly struggle with the nature of their interfaces, but Dementium II's excellent control scheme is something to be applauded.
As far as the combat goes, things are a little more hit and miss. Quite literally, in fact, as the targeting for melee can be very unpredictable and frustrating. There are certain enemies that Willian just can't shank for the life of him, while smaller creatures will usually be able to hit the player far quicker than the player can hit them. The small worm creatures, for example, as a total waste of a bullet, but going anywhere near them often results in taking a random hit. The lack of a block button also means that close quarter combat is simply a case of button mashing and hoping for the best.
Using firearms is a much better prospect, and while none of the weapons are really original, they are effective at putting down the nightmare horde with accuracy and ease of use. Although melee weapons are crucial and abuse of firearms will chew through ammo, there is a liberal enough scattering of bullets to ensure that ranged combat is a viable option whenever the enemy comes in strength.
As well as the grotesque army of general monsters, Dementium II throws a few boss fights into the mix. While at first these battles appear intimidating, they often end up on the wrong side of lengthy and become a bit too repetitive and formulaic to hold interest. The first boss, which spends most of the fight running away and hiding out of range, is shockingly dreadful. Fortunately, the game gets significantly better after the first boss, and battles become much more enjoyable.
One big problem with the game is its reliance on backtracking. The majority of the "puzzles" in the game involve finding a locked door, locating the key, and running back to the door. One particular section is a backtrack through an entire level. The game's usually pretty good at throwing in some "nightmare" sections to keep the repeated areas a little more interesting, so it's not a huge gripe, but players may get a little weary of the familiar scenery.
Speaking of scenery, special attention must be paid to the game's graphics, which are some of the best on the DS. The lighting effects, freakishly disturbing monsters, and wide environments are all very impressive for such a little cartridge, and the aural presentation is even better. The game manages to maintain a creepy atmosphere with great sound effects and creepy monster noises. The soundtrack is damn great as well, with a range of spooky and moody tunes accompanying certain rooms. However, despite the wonderful presentation, graphical glitches regularly conspire to dampen the mood, with monsters proving quite of fond of clipping through the floor and attacking players at waist height.
Dementium II is the best FPS game I've played on the DS to date, eliminating many of the interface problems that have plagued previous attempts at bringing the genre to Nintendo's handheld. It's not the most original of games, and as in fact quite formulaic both in terms of its mechanics and its horror premise, but it's good at what it does regardless. Easy to use, fun to play, and sometimes almost scary, Dementium II is worth picking up for horror fans and FPS players alike, or just somebody who feels their DS library could use something a little darker.
Score: 7.5 -- Good (7s are solid games that definitely have an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.)