Critizing Digital Tribe’s HD remake of Dementium II feels like kicking a defenseless puppy. The Dementium series serves as both a novelty, being the only handheld first-person horror games on the Nintendo DS, and a proof of concept, demonstrating that this genre is possible on a mobile device. But upscaled to the PC with little change to control or level design, suddenly this sequel finds itself in the company of genuine classics like System Shock 2 and the Amnesia series, where it cannot compete. Not on the level of a modern horror game, not as a rival first-person shooter, and certainly not as a work of art.
Dementium II drops players inside a sanitarium that is haunted, or something. Little context or plot is provided as William Redmoor navigates the nightmarish asylum, attacked by numerous rejects from the Clive Barker “Tortured Souls” collection, fighting back with various ineffective weapons. Without properly modifying the stylus-based controls from the DS version to be more palatable with a mouse, basic traversal is sluggish and unresponsive, and the combat is worse. Firearms rarely hit and ammo is sparse (a common survival-horror trope), but the melee combat the player is subsequently forced to use after exhausting all of their bullets is so blatantly inadequate that just playing the game is more nightmarish than any of the horrors within it.
To make matters worse, the game’s checkpointing system doesn’t work, dropping players back to a random point in the game after dying, and sometimes before bosses that have been previously beaten, punishing players with hours of replaying the tepid combat and miserable sequences. If one perseveres despite this, they’re met with an experience composed nearly entirely of elements from better games: a Silent Hill otherworld here, a Left 4 Dead witch-monster there. Even the collectible logs, now terribly clichéd in everything from Resident Evil to BioShock Infinite, are present and utilized in ways that are confounding: None even attempt to explain the incoherent plot, and without the most basic narrative through line there’s little reason to try making it through the mercifully short, borderline-unplayable campaign.
Many of this game’s issues were easier to swallow on the DS, where the novelty of such a game made portable forgave a myriad of mechanical issues, but even there it wasn’t very good. Despite the HD upgrade on the PC, the graphics are still hopelessly behind the times and everything about it feels outdated by about a decade. If anyone was to actually play Dementium II HD, comparisons would invariably be made to the other 2013 asylum-set, first-person horror experience, the disappointing Outlast, which despite falling short in its final act features an opening hour representing one of the best, most intense, and immersive gameplay experiences of the entire year. Dementium II HD doesn’t belong in the same sentence as this game.