Despite being a remastering of a 2007 Nintendo DS title, Dementium Remastered is full of surprises. Renegade Kid’s latest game manages to blend two genres, horror and first-person shooter, that seem like an awful fit for a Nintendo 3DS title. Thankfully, my weariness was unfounded, as the talented indie studio has managed to largely pull off a difficult task. Even if it might feel better suited for other platforms.
Dementium makes a statement right from the start with an incredibly strong opening. The player wakes up in a dark blood stained hospital, armed with nothing but his sanity. The lighting of the hospital makes it impossible to see more than a few feet in front of you, which leads to uncomfortably stumbling around the terrifying area. The startling sound design managed to spook me from the very beginning, and the disturbing noises coming from my 3DS speakers constantly kept me on edge.
Eventually, players find a flashlight that helps illuminate the dim surroundings, and later on weapons to combat the mysterious denizens that lurk. These range from melee weapons such as a nightstick to an array of guns. There is one downside to carrying a weapon, however, and that is due to the character no longer using their flashlight. Aiming in the dark makes for a tense, but annoying affair. It succeeds in making the game scarier, but there isn’t a good reason why the player drops their flashlight when using a one-handed weapon such as a nightstick or pistol.
If you don’t own a Circle Pad Pro, an obscure 3DS accessory that added a second circle pad, then you’re probably wondering how you play a first-person shooter on 3DS. Renegade Kid has a smattering of control schemes available, although each seems a bit limited. New Nintendo 3DS owners can use the C-Stick to aim, although it hardly feels ideal. The nub doesn’t manage to replicate the feel of using a joystick, and it feels disjointed. Other control schemes available include using the touchscreen to aim, or using the face buttons.
While I never felt like one control scheme suited all of my needs, mainly due to switching weapons being relegated to the directional pad, I was able to experiment enough to make it an enjoyable, if unconventional experience. I ended up using the face buttons to look around, and would quickly switch to using the stylus for any enemy encounters. Other players may enjoy using the C-Stick more than I did, but it seems like the Circle Pad Pro is the way to go, if you still have an original 3DS or XL model.
No matter what control scheme you end up choosing, combat ends up being one of the weakest areas for Dementium. There isn’t a wide array of different enemy types, and the battles were never interesting or fun to participate in. This led to me discovering that most of the combat was completely optional, as players can conserve their ammo by running past most of the creepy monsters.
Much more interesting was getting to explore the mysterious hospital. There are plenty of different notes to pick up in the environment that help fill out the story of what is going on, and even some cute nods to previous Renegade Kid games in the forms of posters. Light puzzle solving is also present, and players have a virtual notebook that they can use to write down passcodes, and other important bits of information. Despite not being overly demanding, I always found the puzzle solving to be a fun diversion from the combat that felt okay, but far from great.
Sadly, some of the combat is unavoidable and these moments come in the form of the game’s boss fights. These encounters have the player facing off against fearsome baddies that are giant bullet sponges. I found most of these fights to be on the boring side, as each one largely resorts to you trying to stick and move against the dangerous boss. These battles do have some of the coolest character designs found, though, but it’s kind of a shame that they couldn’t have been used in a more interesting fashion.
Before you know it, your adventure through the hospital comes to an end. Despite being a remake of what used to be a retail product, Dementium Remastered is a pretty short game. It will only take players 3-4 hours to complete, despite the game’s best attempts at artificially lengthening the experience by using save points instead of checkpoints. Despite the game being broken apart into chapters, you are able to die, and will be teleported several chapters back if you haven’t saved (or there weren’t any opportunities to save). It’s 2015, and save points should be a thing of the past.
The brief length isn’t a bad thing, however, as a longer adventure would probably overstay its welcome. Unlike the Nintendo DS original, which was a full priced game, Dementium Remastered is only $14.99. Whether or not that money seems like a good trade-off for a few scary, but flawed hours is ultimately up to each consumer.
Overall, Dementium Remastered is a solid example of designing around any potential hardware deficiencies. Since handhelds can’t produce startling visuals that will scare players, Renegade Kid instead focused on fantastic sound design to make the short journey a terrifying one. It’s a genius design choice, and one that managed to constantly keep me uncomfortable from start to end. If you’re looking for some portable scares, then you can’t do much better than this.
This review is based on the Nintendo 3DS exclusive, which we were provided with.
While the Nintendo 3DS isn't the best platform for horror games, Dementium Remastered is a smartly designed romp that still manages to instill fear in players. Even if it only lasts for a few terrifying hours.