Dementium: The Ward (Nintendo DS) - Review by Andrew



Given how 'family friendly' Nintendo has always been it's maybe a bit surprising to see that some titles are becoming more adult orientated. However given the mass appeal that the DS clearly has, there are more and more titles aimed at late teens or an even more mature audience. Dementium is one such title clearly taking its lead from classic survival horrors (Silent Hill, Resident Evil, etc) and the technical demo has been impressing gamers worldwide for some time now. Demos are one thing though, and actually forming a game around them has caused some developers problems. Renegade Kid are currently riding high on the success of their latest creation 'Moon' but how well did they get on with The Ward?


Possibly the most intriguing aspect of The Ward is the fact that the story slowly unravels in front of you but you'll never be given enough information to allow you to fully figure out what is going on. For starters you are in a dimly lit hospital with only a nightstick and flashlight by your side and absolutely no idea of what's going on. You'll quickly realize that all is not well though when the moans you hear are followed by (what can best be described as) the undead who appear to want a piece of you. Unfortunately this isn't the worst thing you are going to have to deal with here so be prepared...

The actual gameplay is based on exploration; wandering around the place will allow you to collect useful items whilst also dispensing of the hospital's more troublesome inhabitants. This initially involves had-to-hand combat using your nightstick, but will quickly move on to a first person shooter once you find a gun. It's not all about simply shooting things though because woven into the storyline is a collection of puzzles, some simple and others incredibly challenging.

Unfortunately there are some aspects of the gameplay that are challenging for no particular reason. The fact that you can only carry one item at a time, for example, means that shining your flashlight whilst firing a gun is impossible. The maps (when you eventually find one) are also virtually useless as will you have to switch screens constantly to view them and then they only indicate the doors you have opened. More frustrating is the 're-spawning' where re-entering a room means gunning down everything you've just killed a second time wasting valuable health and ammunition.


Given that this is an FPS engine you have to use the d-pad to move around whilst the shoulder buttons are used for things like switching on your flashlight or firing weapons.


Renegade Kid's 3D engine is incredibly impressive and never dips below 60 fps. It's impressive because of the sheer amount of detail in the various wards, where not only will you encounter beds and cabinets but also smaller objects like computers and boxes are also laying around just about everywhere. The textures are also well-rendered even though you can only see a few meters in front of you until you locate the flashlight, which lets you see the whole of the area you are currently in. It's only here that you experience just how much work has gone into the game's design when your only source of light is flickering on and off that increases your already racing heartbeat. There's even a section outside where you'll not only be able to see just how enormous the hospital is but also witness some stormy weather effects.


Any film director will tell you how important sound effects are when building up tension with an audience and the developers have put just as much effort into the audio elements as they have with the visuals. The bulk of this is a rather haunting soundtrack featuring a choral background and a sinister piano track that seems perfectly suited to the game. Added to this is the heartbeat, which gradually increases as you lose health, not to mention almost endless moans, voices and other incidental noises around every corner. It's this intelligent use of sound that really ties the whole experience up nicely and the very fact that you'll often hear something before actually seeing it makes for true 'edge of the seat' gaming.

Dual screen

In conjunction with the d-pad and shoulder buttons you use the touch-screen to look around and travel though the various wards. This is incredibly easy to do and gives you a great amount of freedom to investigate rooms thoroughly. Most objects flash too so are very easy to find and messages on the bottom screen will ask you if you want to open the door or interact with other objects. You also have an inventory, which stores everything you pick up along the way from useful items such as a flashlight and nightstick to heavy-duty weapons like a shotgun. These all appear as icons, so selecting something is just a case of tapping it although you can only use your firearms if you have ammunition for them. Even more useful is a handy notepad, although it's not immediately apparent why you have this, you will be forced to jot down information (generally scrawled on walls) in order to solve some of the more difficult puzzles throughout the hospital.

Final comments

Give that Nintendo demonstrated very early on that this kind of game would work on the DS, it's a bit of a mystery as to why the genre hasn't been exploited on more often. Even when you consider just how polished Metroid Prime was, this comes a close second and the production values are incredibly high. You can even forgive the various design quirks and, although it's over far too soon, the initial play through is very satisfying indeed. A true DS classic.

Pro: Looks and Sounds Wonderful, Some Genuinely Creepy Moments.
Con: No Replay Value, Enemies Re-spawn.
Final score: 8.2


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Boxart of Dementium: The Ward (Nintendo DS)
Platform: Nintendo DS
Genre: Action
Developer: Renegade Kid