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Dementium – (Un)Ethical Psychiatry on 3DS
I have a very peculiar relationship with survival horror.
If each of my memorable experiences were a temporal partner, Silent Hill would be the one that talked garrulously about Satanic cults, liked Marquis de Sade a little too much and drove a beaten up 80s Corolla while musing on mortality and Satre. Resident Evil would be the child prodigy that started out ambitious and is now stoically resigned to sweat pants and service jobs, living in a historic apartment with a slightly out of tune piano. Dementium for the DS, then, is the one that cares very little about what anyone thinks – skating deftly under the radar. As a result, they ask very few questions, but are the compelling, vertiginous dread inducing muse, the two inch thick eyeliner and combative politics that probably isn’t good for you, but you don’t really care. It’s an Alice in Wonderland romp through the mind of a wonderfully deranged creative team. It’s certainly not a title to be checked back into its palpably neurotic care facility and forgotten about.
Luckily, Nintendo has announced plans to release the title on 3ds in 2015 with the largesse of a sequel to follow for anyone that has yet to indulge in the polished horror trappings of Dementium.
For all its brevity and technical longueurs (the notorious ‘one-armed’ mechanic – making it impossible to shine a flashlight and shoot – and the vexing save point system), no-one who saw the potential in an engine like Metroid Prime Hunters could go past Dementium: The Ward. For me, it felt a lot like Doom. Reviews come back from all corners of the internet with varying opinions on its tautology to the font of Silent Hill and the atmosphere of early Resident Evil – in my opinion, it’s more a tincture of the latter and a generous fifth of the former. I remember playing Hunters for the first time and being bowled over by the mouse-like control propensity of the touch screen. Renegade Kid took a similar approach with its engine, and the results are tactfully gory, dovetailed with a delightfully enigmatic narrative.
You begin with an ambiguous cut scene, seated in a wheelchair which is promptly brought to a halt. You are then left to your interrogative devices. A truncheon and a flashlight are there. It’s all very creepy. Without spoiling the mystery, which is the great selling point of this title, (and also one of the flaws in that it hampers re-playability) the psychosis induced plot devices and visceral, unsettling themes are what will make you take out the cartridge to make sure you’re not playing an obscure Silent Hill handheld release. It’s as trippy as a Salvador Dali work that was painted while in motion on a particularly jarring rollercoaster – in the best possible way.
My grievances with Dementium that, in my usual unbridled optimism, I hope Nintendo will remedy in the re-make, are few. Mainly, I felt that the mapping system was rubbish. I understand the cortisol infusion that one feels when lost aimlessly in an indifferent and frequently homicidal vignette of psychotic destruction and how the developers may have been trying to cultivate that tense environment, but could you at least tweak the map so that, upon discovering there’s a putrefying stack of bloodied miscellany knocked over in front of a doorway, we don’t walk back and forth for an hour and then realize our figurative princess is in another metaphorical castle anyway?
I’m certain the graphics will be papered over, upgraded from ‘I coded a sketchy port of Doom and this is what it looks like; complete with whitish pixel blobs!’ to ‘holy Samus, there’s a believable, lumbering, sutured mountain of pallid flesh that looks like it was voluntarily disinterred from open heart surgery mid-way through, in full stereoscopic 3D no less!’.
This is a release with sky-high potential to showcase the nuances of a FPS on the 3DS. Fingers, fleshy stumps and annoyingly loud bone saws crossed that Nintendo can re-animate the limelight glow of its underrated shooters and augment the Dementium dread from progenitor to protege.