Review: Dementium II HD
Have you ever played a game that manages to properly upset you? I’m not talking about playing a game that makes you angry or even disappointed here, I’m talking about playing a game that’s bad in such a special way that it makes you not want to play any videogame at all. A depressing level of bad in a way.
That, to me, is Dementium II HD.
Before I get into why I feel this way about Dementium II HD, let me talk about the original Dementium games first. The two Dementium games by Renegade Kid were quite amazing feats on the Nintendo DS. Both being first person horror titles designed as 3D metroidvanias with more ambition than most other 3D titles on the system. Both the games used the system to its strengths and worked within the limitations they had to do the best they could. I like both of these games, especially the first one. I want to be perfectly clear on that.
So, back to Dementium II HD and how that managed to tear down every good memory I had of the prior games. First of all, I want to inform everyone reading that I did not finish this game, for reasons I will explain in the review. If you by any means consider this review devalued because of that, feel free to stop here. I work under full disclosure with these things and I will not be playing Dementium II HD for another minute to get this review out.
Dementium II HD is, like the name suggests, a enhanced port of the DS game rebuilt with new assets for PC. The story and maps are out of the DS game with little to no changes, which is where one of the first problems come in. The game feels small and sloppy as every area awkwardly fades in and out with a black transition, nothing feels connected and it doesn’t help that the in-game map will often lie to you. The map will show the wrong information regarding locked doors, possible paths and sometimes even where save points are. It’s inexcusable to have save points be safe-houses and health refills when the map can’t even properly tell you where that save point is.
Pretty much every enemy in the game is made up of two categories, boring and annoying. There’s the standard enemies that you can kill easily with the first weapon you find in the game (we’ll talk more about that later) and then there’s a group of enemies that seemingly only exists to make you not want to play the game. One of the enemies send you off to an arena to fight more monsters, which would be fine if the combat wasn’t so bad (like I said, we’ll get to that later) and health wasn’t so scarce. Another enemy spits poison at you that require you to use antidotes to not lose health, that’s fine, except their accuracy is near perfect and they spit at a really high rate. And it’s not like the antidotes are common either.
These enemies would not be so bad if combat wasn’t a good 80% of the game. You’re constantly fighting things to the point where Dementium II HD feels more like an action title than Resident Evil 5 did. The game even has Devil May Cry-style doors that lock until you have killed everything in the area. But a good action game needs good combat, this game has abysmal combat. The best weapon in the game is the make-shift knife that you start with in prison. It’s the only weapon that has good speed and decent damage. You later find sledgehammers that are too slow to be useful, revolvers that are clumsy and a shotgun that does so low damage and takes so long to reload that I’d rather use it as a bat if I could.
So you’ll spend every fight swinging your knife around like a mad-man, hoping to get hits in faster than the enemies while circle-strafing to avoid the enemies that spit. Then you realize there are enemies that are flying, which means a ranged weapon would be in order, but the speed of the enemies flying combined with the awkward nature of aiming and shooting in the game makes any flying enemy harder than an average boss fight. Of course, seeing as boss fights are easiest to win using the knife again, you may make of that what you will. In short, the combat is dreadful and you’ll be forced into it over and over again.
But there’s technically more to Dementium II HD than just the combat. There’s also puzzles that are obviously inspired by 90s adventure games like Myst or 7th Guest. But you’ll be disappointed if you expect the puzzles to be interesting or fun. They’re incredibly simple and often consist of simple fetch quests that are more tedious than fun. You’ll find more thought-provoking tasks in pretty much any other puzzle adventure out there these days. This sums up the gameplay as a whole, one terrible disappointment that is done better almost everywhere else.
Talking about the story is almost unfair to the game, because it was hardly the strength of the original title in the first place. But Dementium II HD has a laughably bad story with some really bad presentation and writing. You play as William Redmoor, the protagonist of the first game, as you once again fight against the works of Doctor. It’s a direct sequel to the first game, which had a far better story, but since that game hasn’t been ported to PC or Mac, a lot of the story will be lost on new players. Few things are properly explained and as an extension to the first game the story always felt unnecessary and forced. William Redmoor should have been left alone after Dementium: The Ward, and Dementium II HD doesn’t do anything to change my opinion on that.
The game is painfully unpolished too. When I first started the game William was unable to interact with the environment, being stuck moving around and doing nothing else. When I attempted to restart the game, getting it to start back up was a pain. When it finally was working, I slugged through about an hour of this awful thing. Saved and quit only to find my savefile lost to the aether next time I started the game. Thankfully I was able to retrieve it again thanks to the Steam cloud, but that should not be a thing I need to do. The game also frequently crashes seemingly without reason and sometimes the FMV sequences will trigger too early, showing a boss appearing in a room before you’ve entered the room.
Doesn’t help that you can die while walking through a door. As the game fades to black to load the next area and fades out of black, you can be killed by an enemy before the fade is done. You may also be sent to a battle area so that you’ll be fading into a second location the very moment you unfade from the previous area. It’s a mess and becomes frustrating and confusing. I’ve also had Steam Achievement refuse to pop up after making it past certain points in the story, which is hardly important, but worth a mention. The game is a QA nightmare, probably one that’d be scarier and more interesting to make a game of than what we have here in Dementium II HD.
Then we have the visuals which are outright ugly. We’re not just talking low-resolution textures and low-poly models here, we’re talking a game that’s ugly from how the art-direction has been presented. It’s a game that’s never nice to look at, even by someone who appreciate gross horror. It just looks pathetic. Putting the art-direction aside, we have textures and models that look like something out of a elaborate Half-Life mod. If it wasn’t for the more advanced shaders for the light and shadows I would not have been surprised to hear that this was made on GoldSrc or something. Because that’s what it looks like.
I very rarely like comparing games to older eras of visuals. Every time someone says a game looks “like a PS2 game” I cringe. But there’s no more accurate way for me to properly explain this next bit than to do so. The FMV sequences in Dementium II HD looks about on-par with Cryo Interactive’s late-90’s adventure games like Beyond Atlantis. I don’t mind a game looking like something out of the 90’s. Especially when it’s from an era and style that I like, but this was just pathetic to behold by a game taunting the word HD in its name. I realize HD has basically lost all meaning as a term, but when you are flaunting something relating to visuals in your name then I will expect something impressive.
After a few hours of Dementium II HD I was so close to the end that I could taste it. But after getting stuck with reverse backtracking during another backtracking to heal up whenever I would be pulled into pointless battle arenas the fifth time I just decided it wasn’t worth it any more. Dementium II HD made me outright sad just by playing it. I can’t think of a single game that has done that in a good number of years.
I hate to say this about any game, but Dementium II HD should never be played by anyone. It’s one of the worst experiences I’ve had in modern gaming. But I believe that every bad thing has something good too it, so I’ll end this review by saying something good about Dementium II HD.
The main menu has really nice music. There, I’m done.