Dementium II Hands-On

It seems like zombies are always involved when we wake up in a strange place with no recollection of how we got there.

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When done right, the heart-pounding and sweaty-palms experience of a horror game can be achieved on a handheld as on a console. Dementium II is a follow-up to the survival horror game Dementium: The Ward, which was released two years ago on the Nintendo DS. SouthPeak stopped by our office to give us a quick look at the sequel and go over some of the changes that have been made to enhance the bone-chilling experience. This is developer Renegade Kid's third first-person shooter on the DS, so it's using the same engine that was used for the game Moon earlier this year.

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Like the first game, you play as William Redmoor who wakes up in an unknown place without his memories. However, this time, you're in an entirely different place and your amnesia can be attributed to something else--like brain surgery. Not that this is any more comforting, but the story does pick up immediately after the first game as you try to piece together what just happened. You don't need to be familiar with The Ward to play the sequel, and it won't spoil the ending of the first game for you, so anyone can jump right in to start exploring the mysterious facility.

The opening is a bit of a blur for our character because he is in a drug-induced state as he's dragged from a hospital bed and tossed into a wretched-looking prison cell. Before we could truly admire how despicable our sleeping quarters were, our environment suddenly changed into a warped, sickly green parallel universe where creatures had giant gaping mouths for their faces. The only weapon available at this point was a rusty-looking shank, which fit our needs for the moment. Later in the game, you'll come across more weapons, as well as a trusty flashlight. One of the changes that has been made is that you can dual-wield your flashlight with any one-handed weapon so you're not left in the dark in certain areas. Other weapons include a sledgehammer, makeshift flamethrower, pistol, and shotgun--just to give you an idea of what to expect. As we made our way through the strange-looking corridors, our vision blurred again and we were back in the prison. But this time, we were outside of our cell. Using our small blade, we slashed our way through a few guards and moved on to a room full of problematic patients.

Saving has also been tweaked so that the game now autosaves as you walk through a door, in the event you have to turn off your DS in a hurry. There will be more checkpoints throughout the levels, so you don't have to backtrack too much if you die. Another nice feature is that you can now carry health pills rather than use them instantly or wander around levels when you're in dire need of some. The first boss we fought was a bizarre creature that was basically a huge mouth lined with sharp teeth; it also had four limbs. It would scale the walls and ceiling, then try to pounce down on us. But, then, it would scurry away so we had to run after it. After taking some damage, it would vomit some kind of toxic waste that came with annoying slugs and spew poisonous gas all over the place.

The controls are similar to the previous game, but now you have jump and crouch buttons on the touch screen. You can double-tap to jump as well. The map is now conveniently located on the bottom screen, so you don't have to bring up another screen just to get your bearings. To run, you press the D pad twice in any direction, although it can sometimes be difficult to see how fast you're actually running. Apparently, in hard mode, your speed is dramatically decreased, which will make it a challenge to avoid or run after certain bosses. If you've been playing shooters on the DS, then the mechanics should feel very familiar.

Glowing ceremonial daggers will always come in handy.
Glowing ceremonial daggers will always come in handy.

Three difficulty settings are also available to you if you want to give yourself a challenge, but there are definitely some tricky bosses in the game that are tough to beat on a lower setting. We had an opportunity to hop into a later stage to tackle a crazy witch that would dart at us in the dark. The flashlight wasn't a huge help, but sound waves appeared onscreen to give us a clue as to where she'd show up next. Her red eyes gave away her location, and we had to time our slashes carefully to hit her. If that wasn't bad enough, as we whittled her health away, she eventually fired multiple beams at us to prevent us from getting too close.

We played with headphones to listen closely to the sound and music, which changed depending on our situation. A dynamic sound system is in place to make the experience similar to one that you would expect on a console. Visually, the game isn't going to compare to a console, but it does an excellent job of providing a disturbing atmosphere for you to explore. As you wander through various corridors, you'll come across puzzles you have to solve in order to continue. In our example, it was a sliding puzzle where we had to shuffle jars around until they were piled up in the right order on the other side of the screen. Some doors were initially blocked, but you can return to earlier areas and later break them down with a sledgehammer.

It looks like Dementium II will have all the tension and gore that fans enjoyed from the first game, so if you're looking for a suspenseful experience as you wait in line or ride the bus, look for the sequel when it is released next February.

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