Heaven Dust 2
Developed By: One Gruel Studio
Published By: indienova
Category: Action, Adventure, Puzzle, Survival Horror
Release Date: 01.06.22
At first glance, Heaven Dust 2 didn’t really look like something that would hold my interest. I based this opinion mostly on the fact that its graphics looked straight out of some Facebook game circa 2002. Once the game kicked my ass so bad on normal difficulty that I had to start over on easy, though, I changed my tune pretty quick. Where I had originally scoffed at the game’s survival horror bona fides, the game earned my respect as a very well-designed example of the genre. It takes its main inspiration from the first few entries in the Resident Evil series, just (thankfully) without the tank controls.
Zombies vs Steve
The game opens with the protagonist Steve being taken into custody by some shady dudes with guns, presumably following the events of the first game (I never played it). Next thing we know, Steve is waking up in a cryogenic tube during a second zombie outbreak. Once he gets himself a gun and some ammo, he sets out to escape the mysterious research facility in which he finds himself. Along the way, he gathers notes and meets fellow survivors that fill in the gaps in his memory. The script is solid enough, if not exactly original. It could absolutely have used a sharper translation, however. It’s riddled with typos and grammatical errors, but nothing so bad I couldn’t follow the story.
Surprisingly Good Survival Horror
I said in the open that Heaven Dust 2 reminded me of the original Resident Evil games. That mostly applies to the puzzle-solving exploration elements. Players guide Steve through the mysterious First Research Center while moving statues, collecting keys, and deciphering codes. The puzzles are well-designed and require both thought and thorough exploration to solve. It’s the second one that can be the biggest problem. The game’s isometric camera perspective forces it to make southern walls transparent at times, which in turn makes it difficult to see when there is a door along those walls. Oftentimes I would get stuck on a puzzle, only to check the map and realize I had missed a room because I couldn’t see the door.
Always Aim. Always.
The action in Heaven Dust 2 doesn’t bear much of a mechanical resemblance to RE, but it does have strategic commonalities. Shooting is a twin-stick affair; you use one to move and one to aim. The game has an auto-aim which targets the nearest enemy; if you target them long enough, the targeting reticle will drift to an enemy’s weak point (mostly the head). Overall, the mechanics of combat are fairly straightforward – it’s the strategic parts where things get interesting.
HD2’s strongest resemblance to Resident Evil’s combat is in its focus on ammunition management. From your limited storage space to the general scarcity of bullets on normal difficulty or higher, Heaven Dust 2 makes you take notice of every advantage you can possibly find. I said in the open I had to restart the game on easy; this was because even just on normal, if I wasted even one bullet I felt I was better off reloading my last save than moving on because there are just that many zombies roaming around. You have to learn to make use of things like exploding oil barrels and the like to take down more than one enemy at a time to even have a chance at clearing a path through some of the hordes patrolling the game’s corridors.
Don’t Look Away
Graphically, I have mixed feelings about Heaven Dust 2. The graphics aren’t by any stretch bad, they just don’t really seem to fit the genre very well. Steve and his human allies look like something out of a Zynga Facebook game more than a bloody survival horror. The environments fit the setting well, however – the game does not lack in creepy hidden hallways or sinister-looking lab equipment. Overall I got to like the look of the game by the time I finished, but to begin with the dissonance between genre and aesthetic was just a tad jarring.
See If You Like Heaven Dust, Too
Heaven Dust 2 is one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve had in some time. My initial – and erroneous – impressions of the game faded away in only a few minutes. It features smooth, intuitive, but intensely strategic combat. The puzzles are perfectly designed in the vein of classic Resident Evil entries. I had a little bit of trouble with the isometric camera angle and some quibbles with the quality of the translation, but anyone looking for a worthy survival horror experience should look no further.
Buy Heaven Dust 2
Digital/Physical – $14.99
The Switch Effect was graciously supplied a code for review purposes.