Review: A DS horror classic returns with Dementium: The Ward, just in time for Halloween

dementium the ward

Say what you will about the DS and its limited specs, but developers pulled true programming miracles with that hardware. Atop that list of magic tricks were first-person games that against all odds just worked. One such game was Dementium: The Ward, from developer Renegade Kid, which not only delivered when it came to first-person gameplay, but was also one hell of a scary experience. Years later, a remastered version was released for the DS’ successor, the 3DS, running at a smooth 60 frames per second and adding a host of improvements.

Now, twelve years later, it’s Switch’s turn at the helm, and aside from its obvious age and the fact that it’s a port of a port of something that was released quite a while ago, Dementium: The Ward is still well worth playing. Not just for history’s sake, but for what it brings to the table. It’s a surprisingly atmospheric game that somehow works even with its presentational and gameplay limitations; in fact, its retro aesthetics can be rather charming, while at the same time, some omissions are treated rather awkwardly.

As a patient who has just woken up in a twisted mental hospital filled with all manner of monsters, you must make your way through its dark, moody halls, at first only carrying a flashlight, as you scour rooms for weapons and items in order to somehow make it to the end in one piece. Knowing all of this was initially done on a system such as the DS makes Dementium ever the more impressive, even though there are a number of weird caveats that came with the re-release on Switch.

dementium the ward

One of which is how the game treated the touch controls on DS and 3DS. Back then, you were able to use a notebook to jot down anything you needed to keep track of, as well as using the touch screen to aim and move the camera. Weirdly enough, even though the Switch has touch capabilities, everything related to it was taken away in this port, and to top it all off, the notebook remains in the game, uselessly sitting in your inventory. Why this wasn’t thought of by the developer is beyond me, although in the overall scheme of things it’s not that big of a deal.

In terms of actual improvements that take into account the much more powerful Switch hardware, there are none to speak of in Dementium: The Ward, outside of having the option to toggle a CRT mode on, filtering the graphics in order to make them look like they’re being displayed on a old tube screen with scanlines. It’s your average effect that can be hit or miss depending on how you prefer your dish of very old school polygonal graphics that were once breaking edge on the DS, running in the same resolution from back then, 426×240 pixels. It looks chunky when playing with the filter off, and when you turn it on, it’s also that and grainy!

Not taking into account that fact and treating this release for what it is, an all too faithful port of a very old release, to a fault even, there’s merit for it remaining a decently spooky game. Only now it’s running on a system whose eShop is still online, where it can be bought and played by an entirely new audience, including those like me who missed it the first and second times around and can’t buy the game on its original platform. Faults and all, Dementium: The Ward is back, something we can’t say about a vast majority of other titles that are stuck on a dead digital distribution channel.

Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this product from #keymailer #dementium

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