A Worthy Tribute
Developed by two person team, One Gruel Studio, Heaven dust 2 is a “love letter to classic survival horror games”. It comes as no surprise that it is not subtle about drawing a lot of similarities with the original Resident Evil games. As a fan of the genre that had bought her original Playstation (back in the day) because a friend showed her the first Resident Evil, I appreciate that. Like their inspiration, One Gruel Studio has managed to create a fun survival horror experience. Also, like their inspiration, they have managed to make a sequel that improves on the formula created by their original.
Fighting Zombies in a Hospital Gown
You wake up in some kind of lab. Your name is Steve and all you have is a bad feeling and the hospital gown that you are wearing. You probably have some kind of back story considering this a sequel, but the story flashes by so quickly that it is difficult to keep up with. The only thing that you need to know is that you are in a survival horror game and that it is now your job to wander around and find clues, puzzle pieces, and a pair of pants. You’ll also need to find as many guns and as much ammo as you can carry, because you are not alone. Almost every interaction you will have is with something that would very much like to kill you. It’s the classic survival horror formula, except that the zombies and monsters all have a “cute” aesthetic, as does your own character and anyone else you meet. It is a great juxtaposition with the gore.
Also unlike those classics, Heaven Dust 2 is set to an isometric camera view. This is a good and bad thing. Gone are the quick cut angles that add suspense and perspective, but at the same also gone are the tank controls. The controls feel responsive and for the most part obstructive walls become transparent when you are behind them. It does get a little tricky at first, but you get used to it. It will cause you to miss more than one room that is in the lower right corner and have you aimlessly walking around looking for whatever you missed. Check your map.
As you are wandering the compound grounds there are several different types of zombies and lab experiments gone wrong to contend with. You have to learn what works best to kill each type and some are definitely harder to kill than others. Be careful with ammo too.
Even though you can find and craft ammo, it seems like there is always just enough. You do not want to get caught in any kind of situation, without ammo, with just your knife. It can get bad real quick. The hallways are never safe.
Because it’s not 1996, you can also just open a door and walk into a room. Always walk into a room with a weapon drawn. Not only is it helpful when that room is inevitably full of zombies, but the animation of Steve walking with his gun drawn is pretty cool, as is the reloading animation. It’s a great combination of cute and tuff.
While you are not getting killed by zombies, keep your eye open for visual clues and notes that may have some kind of clue or another. Most progress is locked behind some kind of doorway locked with a puzzle, or a key, and you have to solve a puzzle to get access to the key. It does cause a little fetch fatigue, but it’s kind of what this genre was built on and as you progress you open up shortcuts so it could be much worse. It only gets frustrating when you think you should go through one more room before you save and lose that progress.
All things considered, the game feels pretty good. Walking into a dark room with your gun drawn and seeing the sight reticle suddenly attached to something in the dark causes that tension that is the whole reason that you are playing. You will spend a lot of time knowing something is coming up, but also knowing that you probably don’t have enough ammo. Though it can be overwhelming at times, it is a fun game loop.
Heaven Dust 2 excels at most of what it is trying to accomplish. The graphics are good and the character models are kind of adorable with detailed animations. It is a solid throwback to a classic and wears its inspiration on its sleeve. From the sound of your footsteps to the combining of red and green herbs, Heaven Dust 2 feels familiar enough but doesn’t feel like you’re playing the same old thing. And one more very important thing…
Review code provided
Platform: PC, Nintendo
Release Date: 06/01/2022
No. of Players: 1
Category: Adventure, Action, Puzzle
Developer: One Gruel Studio
Download link: US eShop / UK eShop