Dementium: The Ward Articles RSS Feed | Dementium: The Ward RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network Little Scares: Can Horror Games Ever Work on Handheld? Fri, 24 Feb 2017 08:00:01 -0500 Rob Kershaw

Capcom's reboot of the Resident Evil series has met with acclaim, and rightly so -- its first-person perspective thrust players into a house of horrors filled with grotesquery, and the sound design worked to shred the last of their nerves. When combined with the optional VR experience, it was a full-on destroyer of pants.

But do you really need a 52" television and 7.1 surround sound in order to fully immerse yourself in a horror game? Or can you squeeze screams from a tiny handheld just as effectively as a next-gen console?

Switch It Up

Mobile gaming has dabbled with horror on and off over the years, and some would argue that looking at a tiny screen is simply not the same as getting up close with a TV or monitor -- the effect is reduced, the chills minimal. Given that it will be spanning gaming at home and on the move, the Switch could be the new proving ground for the genre, but Nintendo hasn't announced a single horror game in its line-up.

This isn't really surprising, since there doesn't seem much appetite from the publisher with regard to horror on its home consoles -- ZombiU and Resident Evil: Revelations were the only real horror titles on the Wii U. Yet, there were far more on Nintendo's portable systems. The likes of Spirit Camera may have been pretty woeful, but others were far more successful: Dementium and Dementium 2 proved that horror had a place on the DS and 3DS, and that with clever design you could still put a terrifying game into players' hands.

It's something that Nintendo may want to consider, given its new hybrid console -- although factoring in how the move from living room to portable console will work is definitely a challenge. What may work on a big screen might not be so effective on a handheld. But something like a visual novel with horror elements -- like Virtue's Last Reward -- could bridge the gap nicely.

Scares on Sony

Of all the major handheld consoles, it was the PSP and Vita that really capitalized on the horror market. From the get-go, Sony were happy to showcase horror from developers large and small on their hardware. Silent Hill: Origins was the first of the series to move outside of the living room, and the PSP original was a much better game than its PS2 port. It was successful enough to give Climax Studios the chance to reimagine the first Silent Hill in Shattered Memories, while Resident Evil: Revelations 2 also hit the Vita (albeit, with an inferior version).

From the indie side, the lithograph-style horror of Neverending Nightmares and the pixel terror of Lone Survivor were both solid horror options on the Vita, and the low graphical requirements of the latter ensured a smooth playthrough on handheld without losing any of the psychological narrative.

Phoning It In 

Despite all of the best efforts of the gaming behemoths though, horror has arguably succeeded better on mobile and tablet than any other portable device. The sheer number of small development studios willing to play around with the genre has led to a number of fantastic horror games. Free from the often expensive and time-consuming processes of getting their title published on consoles, they have turned to the likes of the Apple and Google Play stores to sell their game -- resulting in a number of notable hits.

Psychological horror is the most predominant form of the genre on tablet, whether in the bizarre and excellent Year Walk, the disturbing Fran Bow, or the doll-based terror of Emily Wants To Play. The success of these mobile games has led to bigger and better ports to PC (Year Walk in particular being notably good), and caused bigger studios to take notice -- Telltale have launched all three seasons of The Walking Dead on Android and iOS, while Dead Space was remade for both platforms back in 2011.

But arguably the biggest horror hit on mobile was Five Nights At Freddy's, a point-and-click survival game which ratcheted up the terror through a simple but effective premise: holding off a group of malfunctioning animatronic animals before they rip your face off. As a player, you were rooted to the security room, frantically flipping between cameras to keep track of where each creepy monster was -- like the Weeping Angels in Doctor Who, they don't move when watched, making their slow progress towards you even more terrifying.

Five Nights At Freddy's was so successful it spawned no fewer than four sequels, a spin-off, and a novel, with a second book due this year. And with Warner Bros. optioning the film, the series shows no sign of going anywhere. The market for mobile horror is alive and well, then, but the big companies still seem reticent to support it.

Perhaps the success of Resident Evil 7 will kick-start the genre on mainstream handhelds again, though with the Vita at the end of its life and the 3DS being all but superseded by the Switch, one has to wonder whether Nintendo -- who is likely to have the last "handheld" console on the market -- will be willing to take the gamble.

But the fact remains that while they may never graphically match up to the likes of the PS4 and Xbox One, if you put a pair of headphones in and boot up a decent horror game on a handheld device, there's an excellent chance that you'll get just as many chills as sitting in front of the living room TV -- and we'd love to see more.

8 of the Best Jump Scares in Horror Gaming Wed, 31 Aug 2016 12:32:19 -0400 Amy Turnbull


1) Fatal Frame - Broken Neck Ghost


That's right - Fatal Frame is so good at genuinely frightening jump scares, it gets two mentions in this list! And this particular ghost from the first game in the series is well-deserving of the number one spot.


This infamous jump scare is just one of the encounters you'll have with this angry ghost in Fatal FrameBroken Neck is undoubtedly the most well-known (and perhaps worst-feared) ghost in the series. She's near-impossible to get rid of and crops up in the game time and time again.


As you make your way through the beautiful Himuro Mansion, be sure not to get too distracted - one moment, all is calm and relatively quiet; the next, you find yourself face-to-face with the terrifying Broken Neck ghost - and she has no regards for personal space.


It's been over a decade since I first played this game, but I can still remember my first encounter with Broken Neck (and the accompanying near heart attack!) clear as day, along with the reactions of everyone in the room at the time. As you can see from the clip below, even those not engrossed in playing the game can't help but scream when she appears from nowhere.


And let's not forget, Fatal Frame is supposedly based on a true story... Sweet dreams, horror fans!



Did your favorite jump scare make it to the list? Let us know in the comments which heart-stopping moments you'll never forget from your favorite horror games!


2) Resident Evil 2 - Interrogation Room Licker


This well-known video game series has been going on for years, but it's actually one of the earliest games in the franchise that provides some of the best jump scares out there.


Raccoon City is overrun with zombies following the outbreak of the T-Virus - a bio weapon developed by the evil Umbrella Corporation. 


You get to play as both Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield in this outing, which has the classic Resident Evil formula - exploring, solving puzzles, and kicking zombie ass. 


In one of the most unforgettable jump scares of the entire Resident Evil series, you find yourself in a rare quiet moment, collecting necessary items in the police department's interrogation room. Before you know it, one of the 'Licker' creatures comes crashing through the two-way mirror just as you walk by.


This continues to make me jump out of my skin during replays to this day!


Watch from 2:58 for the specific jump scare


3) P.T. (Silent Hills) - Lisa Attacks


Known simply as P.T. at the time of its release on the PlayStation Store, this free playable teaser for (the eventually canceled) Silent Hills game was an interesting and unique psychological survival horror.


As the mystery protagonist, you find yourself in a corridor which you must explore (and which you soon realize is endless, as you are caught in some kind of never-ending loop).


The key is to work your way through the game until the moment a phone starts to ring. Once this has been triggered, you are released from the hallway and are rewarded with the trailer for Silent Hills.


The objective isn't as simple as it sounds. You have no combat skills, and must investigate various frightening situations and solve challenging puzzles. The corridor will continue to change around you each time you complete a loop of it, and this can go on for hours, adding to the desperation you already feel.


One scary aspect of P.T. that keeps you on your toes is the hostile spirit Lisa, whom you encounter numerous times throughout the game. However, it's the moment she attacks you suddenly if you let her get too close that really takes you by surprise, and provides one of the most terrifying jump scares on this list.



4) F.E.A.R. - Alma Appears on the Ladder


The appropriately titled F.E.A.R. is an FPS survival horror in which you play as the First Encounter Assault Recon's Point Man. Your team has been sent in to contain the area where supernatural phenomena of the deadly variety have been taking place.


The horror style used in this game is heavily inspired by Japanese horror movies, both visually and audibly. There is a lot of silence used throughout, which, when paired with the other aspects of the game's creepy atmosphere, allows the player's imagination to run wild, creating your own anxiety and fear.


The main antagonist in F.E.A.R., Alma Wade, most often presents herself in the form of a little girl (and as we all know, creepy little girls are always a hit in the horror genre!). She's often spotted in your peripheral vision, walking by as though she was there all along, but sometimes she gets a bit more daring.


In one of the most memorable moments from this game, Alma appears out of thin air right in front of you as you reach the top of a ladder, with her eerie giggle sending a chill down your spine, just in case suddenly seeing her wasn't scary enough.



5) Dementium: The Ward - Screeching Banshees


Dementium stood out as a rather unique game for the DS when it was released, as it was the first fully 3D, first-person survival horror to be released on that platform. As it turns out, it works surprisingly well.


You start the game knowing very little about what you may encounter. You wake up alone in a dimly lit room within a run-down asylum, with no knowledge of who you are or how you came to be there. 


Upon exploring the asylum, you come across various mutants, the result of surgical experiments performed on the hospital's patients. With limited weapons and ammunition scavenged from around the darkened asylum as you explore, the game's atmosphere leaves you feeling claustrophobic and increasingly on edge.


In one of Dementium's more surprising jump scares, you find yourself entering a seemingly empty corridor, only to be confronted with what appear to be FLYING CLOWN HEADS. The stuff of nightmares, right? And just in case the image isn't bad enough, the noise they make is terrifying.



6) Five Nights at Freddy's - Freddy Jumps Up


Five Nights at Freddy's is a relatively short game with a simple concept - work a night shift as a security guard for a pizza restaurant, and try not to get killed in the process.


The game, developed by Scott Cawthon, became an instant sensation on its release and has spawned numerous sequels and spin-offs in the two years since. The series still has a large cult following online today, and fans are waiting in hope of a new game this October.


FNAF is a simple point-and-click game, but it still has a high fear factor, as you are left with rising panic as the nights go on. Unable to move from your spot, you can only click through the security cameras to keep an eye on the various deadly animatronics that lurk about the place, and hope that they don't make it to the office you occupy.


In this clip, YouTube user Smike is working his way through Night 4, when animatronic Freddy seems to appear out of nowhere, as he is wont to do.


Watch from 15:00 for the specific jump scare


7) Fatal Frame - Ghostly Man Behind the Door


The Fatal Frame series is one of my personal favorites when it comes to survival horror games. The games have a uniqueness to them that make them a delight to play, and they really do continually scare your socks off!


The first installment in the series is set in the abandoned Himuro Mansion in 1980s Japan. You play as Miku, on the search for her brother who has recently gone missing at the mansion. You are armed only with the Camera Obscura - an antique camera that can be used to fight off and capture ghosts.


The game's atmosphere is rather creepy, as you never know when or where ghosts are going to appear, or how violent they may become upon seeing you. 


In the clip below, YouTube gamer TrueGameMage illustrates just how suddenly the spirits in this game can take you by surprise, and it really does leave you with a racing heart every time!


Watch from 1:50 for the specific jump scare




8) Outlast - Hanging Body


We kick off our countdown with indie survival horror Outlast. In the game, you play as a freelance investigative journalist, Miles Upshur, who is investigating an asylum tucked away deep in the mountains of Colorado.


Armed with a camcorder and nothing more, your aim is to document the horrors taking place in the asylum, which has been overrun with homicidal patients. 


Knowing you have just a camera and some parkour-type moves to get you through the game, you're kept on the edge of your seat throughout. But one thing that guarantees you'll be on the alert from the start is that the jump scares begin almost immediately. 


The clip below, from YouTube user Deadwax, is the first jump scare of the game. As you enter a room, you are unexpectedly greeted by a dead body swinging towards you from the ceiling. This moment lets you know from the get-go that Outlast won't mess about. 



The survival horror genre is a popular one amongst gamers. Apparently, there are a lot of us out there that just love to scare ourselves silly!


But what makes a great horror game?

A typical recipe for games wanting to induce fear in the player will include things like dim lighting, chilling music, and sound effects, and gruesome antagonists, all combining to provide a creepy atmosphere that leaves you on the edge of your seat.

As the years have gone on, and graphics have continued to improve with changing technology, the fright factor has increased, with more and more extreme visuals and themes appearing in horror games. The ghosts, zombies and other beasties and apparitions at the core of these games today can leave a lasting impression in the nightmare department.


But one thing that has been a constant throughout the genre, no matter the age or quality of the games' graphics, is the jump scare. A timeless technique employed in both the movie and gaming industry, this classic tactic will never fail to leave your heart racing and your spine tingling. 


Here, we take a look back at just a handful of the more memorable jump scares that have left us chilled to our core over the years...

Jools Watsham of Renegade Kid Discusses His Career, Dementium Remastered, and the Future of Gaming Wed, 19 Aug 2015 06:28:41 -0400 Zach Stratton

One of my dreams as a kid was to work as a game developer. For this reason or that, it hasn’t come true yet, but I have discovered a way to fulfill my love of games in my writing. As soon as I started writing, I thought about how much fun it would be to reach out to some of my favorite developers and see if they would speak to me about their experiences and their games.

Jools Watsham, co-founder and Director of the excellent developer Renegade Kid, was gracious enough to give a young writer a chance and took some time out of his busy day to answer some questions for me. Renegade Kid is currently working on Dementium Remastered, the remastered version of the critically acclaimed 2007 Dementium: The Ward.

Jools Watsham: Click the man's face for a link to his Twitter account!

Renegade Kid is the mastermind behind 14 original titles, including popular games like Mutant Mudds, Moon Chronicles, and recently, Xeodrifter. They have been crafting grab bag indie games for Nintendo handhelds since the original DS days and have made quite a name for themselves among the ever-growing "nindie" (Nintendo indie) fanbase. They have also ported some of their games to PC, WiiU, and PlayStation consoles and their games often end up in indie bundles. 

In 2007, Jools Watsham and Gregg Hargrove got together and began making something that hadn't really been done before: a survival horror game on the Nintendo DS. Using the unique capabilities of the handheld, they created Dementium: The Ward, a game that catapaulted them from a couple of guys coding a game to a full-blown games studio with an impressive resume.

Many games critics praised Renegade Kid's innovative use of the DS, pointing out that they really pushed the hardware to its limits. Dementium: The Ward scored well with the gaming community and the remastered version is highly anticipated among fans of Renegade Kid and the survival horror genre. 

Based in a mental institution, Dementium explores insanity, violence, and sociopathy. A dark game indeed, Dementium was created as a project of passion by three dudes who wanted to show that survival horror could live on the Nintendo DS. The game was shopped around to many publishers, including as an entry in the Silent Hills series. Renegade Kid carried on and eventually published with Gamecock on Halloween of 2007. Just last year, Mr. Watsham announced that they were working on a remastered version of the game, reigniting old loves and gaining new hopeful fans, myself included.

I reached out to Mr. Watsham and asked him to answer some questions of mine, not only about his game and his career, but the state of gaming in general. His insights into the future of gaming in particular are very interesting and relevant to players and developers alike.

What do you do, day to day? Take me through a day in the life.

I may start my day with a rough idea of what I’ll be working on that day, but anything can happen. My duties each day can vary a great deal. I wear many hats. Some days I work on game design in a level editor, a word document, or doodle in a notepad. Some days I may create pixel art in ProMotion, or work on promotional art in Photoshop. Sometimes I work on video trailers for our games, or write press releases. On occasion I even work on sound effects. There are also the less glamorous tasks that involve contracts or other paperwork necessary for various aspects of game development. It certainly never gets boring.

When did you get started with playing games and what was the first game that you remember?

My early memories of playing games was with the Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K. Some of the games I remember were Hungry Horace and Jet Set Willy. Originally, I played on my Dad’s Spectrum, but later I got my own as a gift – which was very exciting! It was a Spectrum +.

How did you get started with developing games?

I started dabbling with game development with basic on the Spectrum, and then with various tools on the Commodore 64, Atari ST, and Amiga. This all gave me an amateur glimpse of what game development might be like. It was a hobby. One that I didn’t think would turn into a career. My first job was as a video game journalist at a UK magazine called The One. All the while I continued to work on pixel art and game design as a hobby at home. One of the game developers I met through my job as a journalist was David Bowler, who informed me that the company where he worked – The Sales Curve – was looking for pixel artists, so I submitted my art portfolio and interviewed with them and got the job. That was my first professional role in game development.

Why do you make games?

I love playing video games. That is where my enjoyment for video games started. And then I was intrigued by the challenge involved in trying to create one – an on-going quest that I am still journeying today. Creating a game that one feels is worthy of releasing for others to play is a difficult and fulfilling experience. I love it.

Where do you think the games industry will be in the next 5-10 years?

I think it has to move towards a streaming model, much like Netflix provides a way to stream TV shows and movies. The need to buy an Xbox, PlayStation, or Nintendo just seems silly really. Now that the CPU power and bandwidth exists for users to stream the games they want to play at home or on their mobile device, I think it is a natural step to do away with the expensive hardware in your home and provide players with the software they want, when they want it. I expect we’ll still see hardware, but perhaps modeled around the experience and/or input device the users chooses to invest in for the types of games they want to play.

You're telling me I might be able to binge games in the future? Awesome

What games did you enjoy playing in 2014 and 2015 and what are you looking forward to most?

Shovel Knight was a great experience that I thoroughly enjoyed on the 3DS. On the Wii U I really enjoyed Mario Kart 8 and Splatoon. And on my iPhone, I really enjoyed Crossy Road. I also got my hands on a handheld device called RS-1, which got me hooked on Kung Fu and Adventure Island again.

I am looking forward to the new Zelda game, coming to Wii U or Nintendo’s next platform.

Dementium is an awfully dark game. What made you decide to develop such a mature game?

We are big fans of the survival horror genre, and saw that there was not much of that on the DS. I really enjoyed playing games on the DS, so it just felt right to release a game like Dementium in that market where I was hoping there were other players like me who wanted an experience like that for the DS.

There are strong references in the Dementium games to mental illness, psychiatry, and institutions. Was this a convenient starting point? Or was it something you wanted to tackle as its own theme?

Something that we spent a lot of time on in the beginning was creating an inherently creepy setting and theme for the game that would be uniquely associated with Dementium. Silent Hill has its fair share of Hospitals, but we felt that having a game set entirely in a dark and grimy Hospital would be unique and provide a strong identity for the game.

What new features can we expect?

The focus of Dementium Remastered has been to take advantage of the 3DS hardware and improve the visuals, as well as make the gameplay experience more enjoyable than the original – which was lacking save points and plagued by respawning enemies and limited ammo.

This was the least scary photo I could find

How did the game evolve from the original concept? What went right or wrong during development of Dementium

Due to the lack of save points and inclusion of respawning enemies, the original experience was unintentionally challenging. Having the opportunity to address these issues to make the player’s journey more enjoyable / less frustrating feels like an evolvement. It not only fixes shortcomings of the original game, but also makes the game more palatable for today’s players.

I think a lot of what we accomplished with the original development went right. I am extremely proud of what we created on the DS. And, what we have been able to improve upon with Dementium Remastered has been very exciting. I think fans of horror will be in for a treat.

Between the original release and the remaster, what lessons have you learned as a developer?

After the completion of Dementium, we developed Moon and Dementium II. We learned a lot about pacing, story, and overall production with these games – aspects we are now able to implement into Dementium Remastered.

What are the plans? Dementium III? What goodies can we expect from Renegade Kid in the future?

We have wanted to develop Dementium III for many years. Dementium III will require a huge investment in time and money, so it will depend on how well Dementium Remastered and Dementium II Remastered are received in the 3DS market.

Pretty sweet skull and crossbones, Jools

Dementium Remastered is slated to be released later this year. Dementium II Remastered is still in the works and no release date has been given yet. Be sure to check out Renegade Kid’s other games, including the colorful, adorable Mutant Mudds and the recently released Xeodrifter. Be sure to click the logo above to check out Renegade Kid's website and follow Renegade Kid and Jools Watsham on Twitter for the most current news and fun opportunities to play with the staff of Renegade Kid.