Heaven Dust 2
Developer: One Gruel Studio
Genre(s): Survival Horror
Platform: Nintendo Switch (also available on PC)
Age Rating: Teen
Release Date: 06/01/22
Price: $14.99 / €14.99
A code was provided for review purposes.
The survival horror genre has seen a bit of a revival over the last couple of years. The success of both Resident Evil 7 and the “REmake” of Resident Evil 2 have highlighted that gamers want the more claustrophobic horrors of the past, rather than a blockbuster schlock-filled epic. One title that aims to put the traditional survival horror aspect back on the map is Heaven Dust 2.
Jam packed with looming shadows, plenty of zombies, puzzles, and a constant unnerving atmosphere, Heaven Dust 2 is a thrill-ride that grabs you and doesn’t let go.
After the events of the previous instalment, Heaven Dust 2 sees series protagonist, Steve, awaken from his cryogenic slumber deep inside the vast First Research Center. No sooner than he’s got his bearings, Steve soon discovers that there’s been another outbreak of the ‘Heaven Dust’ virus, and as such the facility is overrun with zombies and other nasties. Now on a journey to escape the center, Steve has to deal with the horrors that lurk within. And come the end of his journey, maybe the truth as well…
While the overall story to Heaven Dust 2 is a little clichéd, it is still an enjoyable adventure. The developers at One Gruel Studio have captured the claustrophobic atmosphere incredibly well, which more than makes up for the relatively safe narrative. The corridors and rooms of the First Research Center are dark and brooding, with shadows clinging all around. There are also hastily constructed barricades and choke points littered all around, all coming together to create a feeling of uncertainty and dread.
What makes Heaven Dust 2 unique is that it is played from an isometric viewpoint. While on occasion the semi-panoramic view can spoil upcoming threats, in the here-and-now, nothing is a certain. There is also a dumbed-down field of view mechanic at play which limits your view of adjacent areas, unless you are physically inside that area. Much like that seen within the original Resident Evil titles, this viewpoint builds the horror and suspense, as you are never sure what is coming next.
Combat is fairly satisfying, and offers either some quick action or a deeper tactical approach. There is often an explosive barrel conveniently placed which can allow for some smart shooting, and it is never a bad thing when you can take out multiple zombies with one bullet! When it comes to physically pulling the trigger, the game employs an auto-aim function that will lock on to any target that it is pointed over. Give it a few seconds, and the cursor will adjust to allow for head shots as Steve essentially steadies his aim.
Weapons & Inventory
Unlike other survival horror games, Heaven Dust 2 allows for a lot of freedom in how you defend yourself. Having started off with just a knife and pistol, the later game sees you equipped with a sub machine gun, shotgun, and a couple of grenade types. What is more interesting is that these can also be used to explore the environment more. For instance, you will be able to destroy barricades with the shotgun, or power up machinery with the shock grenades. There is a lot of freedom to utilise these weapons however you wish, and the more skillful players should have no problem using the right tools at the correct time.
Weapons can also be enhanced, which further adds to their prowess. Along your journey, you will come across a wide range of attachments which add various benefits to their respective weapon. Items such as sights allow Steve to target weaklings quicker, while magazines increase clip size. There are other attachments that allow for a greater rate of fire, too.
Your inventory is used in a quite unique way, too. While it does take some elements from Resident Evil‘s tried and tested method, Heaven Dust 2 mixes it up a little. There are a multitude of items that you will discover that can be combined to make other items. You will be able to craft various ammo types, as well as more efficient ways to heal yourself. Each area is also littered with items in such a way that you will never be able to carry everything. You will often find yourself prioritising the bare necessities, in case you might discover a pack of painkillers or an important item in the next room. Thankfully, the game gives you quite a wealthy storage chest if you do fancy picking everything up.
As I touched upon earlier, the world building throughout is phenomenal. The environments are intricately designed, and scream to be explored in-depth. Each room — or area — is littered with small details that give the impression of a very believable and lived-in world. Everything from environmental puzzles, to trashed desks, to hastily-built barricades all work to portray the fact that something terrible has happened. In true survival horror fashion, there’s also an abundance of text files scattered around which help fill Steve’s missing hours. They’re certainly worth checking out to read the story detail hidden within.
Presentation also works well in conveying the sense of unease too. While visuals take on a more anime style, there is a lot of horror within. Enemies look hideous as they amble towards you in their ripped lab coats, with bone growth acting as quasi-armour. At certain points you will also encounter enemies that are hideously bloated to the point that they explode if Steve gets too close.
This leads into the only real criticism of Heaven Dust 2. While the environments are steeped in detail, they can be a little too detailed. Often rooms and corridors are littered with scenery that it makes spotting enemies fairly difficult. There’s also a fairly high amount of backtracking involved. While this isn’t something new for the genre, it is made worse by a map system that is anything but serviceable.
Overall, Heaven Dust 2 builds upon its predecessor in every conceivable way. It is bigger, bolder, and expands upon everything that Heaven Dust did well. While it does bear some similarities to the Resident Evil series, One Gruel Studio have added enough variation to set it apart. What makes Heaven Dust 2 stand out is its tense gameplay and claustrophobic atmosphere. This is all topped off with some superb combat mechanics, which breathe new life into the tried and tested genre.
Rapid Reviews Rating
4.5 out of 5
Heaven Dust 2 is available now, and can be purchased from the Nintendo eShop by clicking here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.