Renegade Kid was one of the premier independent developers on the Nintendo DS, leveraging the handheld’s meager hardware into a trio of surprisingly effective first-person shooters: the dark, spacebound Moon, and the Dementium series. The latter provided a shocking, brutal experience on the DS in a rust-clad, blood-soaked dimension of pain that was equal parts Jacob’s Ladder and Hellraiser, warping between the tortured brain of one William Redmoor and the real world, but the lines between the two quickly become blurred, and what’s real and what’s imagined no longer becomes clear.
The second game of the pair, Dementium II, has been ported to the PC by Memetic Games as Dementium II HD, a perfectly faithful port of the DS original that brings what was easily the best shooter on the platform to a new audience. Unfortunately, this perfect rendition brings with it some issues with translation between the systems.
The graphical overhaul is a bizarre, uneven affair. The low-poly models and environments of the original DS version have received a minimal upgrade, but have been dressed in razor-sharp textures and a crisp new lighting engine that can alternate between enhancing the visuals or throwing their flaws into sharp relief. It falls into a weird no-man’s land that neither offers the glossy polish of a new title, nor the gritty patina of the original. The other strange holdover from the original game is the near-constant loading between rooms: a necessary workaround for the memory constraints of the DS but an inexplicable artifact on a machine with 16GB of RAM.
Finally, there’s just the simple fact that, while Dementium II and its predecessor were exciting and novel on the Nintendo DS (a 3D FPS featuring fully-polygonal graphics and a touchscreen “mouselook” was a shocking revelation for the handheld), it occupies a very crowded space on the PC. We’ve had plenty of asylum or prison-set horror games on the platform (The Suffering, Outlast, and Manhunt 2 spring almost immediately to mind) and while Dementium II was unique on the DS, it needs a lot more than what it’s offering to set itself apart in the more broad space of the PC or set-top consoles. Also, there’s the weird OCD sticking point for this reviewer: why Dementium II and not its prequel Dementium: The Ward? While the sequel is clearly the superior game of the duo (sorry, The Ward), it’s a jarring experience for players to dive headfirst into the second part of William Redmoor’s story without the foundation laid out by the first game.
While Dementium II was a revelatory experience in its original format (I was pretty damn fond of it) transplantation from handheld to home PC has led to some less-than-stellar results. What was once brilliant on its limited platform becomes woefully rote years later and with the hardware ceiling lifted.