It’s Still 1996 Somewhere
HIGH The final boss fight with its puzzle elements.
LOW The chair puzzle somehow makes less than zero sense.
WTF How is no one being sued over this?
If there’s one takeaway from the existence of Heaven Dust, it’s that Capcom must have incredibly forgiving attorneys.
I cannot exaggerate the extent to which Heaven Dust exists only because no one has exercised a copyright lawsuit based on its similarity to Resident Evil. If the mansion setting, combinable herbs and identical plot weren’t enough, the Nemesis himself literally appears on the title screen, acting as a sort of mascot. As baffling as its existence might be, the real question is whether it’s worth playing…
As a Resident Evil game in all but name, Heaven Dust exists only to completely recreate the experience of playing the first RE in a slightly different genre. This isn’t the first time that particular title has been remade from a different perspective, but where Umbrella Chronicles focused on shooting zombies in classic locations, Heaven Dust sticks close to the original formula — the only real change between this game and the one that inspired it is that the camera angle now looks down from above at a severe angle. The effect? It’s much, much easier than the original since the player is always fully aware of what waits around every corner.
The gameplay sticks incredibly close to RE’s. Players control a man who wakes up in the middle of the mansion. We’re not sure how he got there, and because there are no NPCs to interact with, his role in the story won’t become clear unless every optional note is read. To be fair, the notes are important anyway, because they offer clues on how to solve the many puzzles.
As the only window into the plot, these notes are well-written enough, but they don’t have the kind of life or character one expects from journal entries in this type of experience. There’s a perfunctory feel to them that keeps this aspect from resonating emotionally.
Just like the puzzles, combat is an exact recreation of RE’s, with the player forced to lock themselves in place if they want to fire their weapon. The big change is that it’s simple to line up shots when looking down on the action.
Sadly, Heaven Dust is limited when it comes to enemies — there are no strange twists or bizarre creatures hiding in this mansion. Other than the aforementioned boss, the only enemies are zombies which prove more of an annoyance than anything else. Occasionally they’ll lunge towards the player for a few steps, but they’re mostly content to shamble around and wait to get shot.
One of the most annoying aspects of Heaven Dust‘s fidelity to the source material is keeping RE‘s famously stingy inventory system. Players have just six item slots, and between a gun, ammo, and shell casings for crafting, players effectively have three inventory slots to use. This, naturally, leads to an ungodly amount of backtracking, which would be a deal-breaker if it weren’t for the mansion’s relatively small size.
Heaven Dust is an oddity — it’s a game that can’t simply be dismissed as a rip-off of Resident Evil because the developers have made no attempt to hide what they’re doing. This isn’t simply ‘inspired by’ RE, it’s a literal recreation of Capcom’s seminal work in everything but name and a couple of minor plot details. It’s clearly a labor of love from people with a deep fondness for the franchise. I’m not surehow it will land for people who have no nostalgia for the original, but as someone who’s spent untold hours inside Spencer Mansion, I found it to be a delightful bite-sized homage.
Disclosures: This game is developed by One Gruel Studio and published by indienova. It is currently available on PC and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to the singleplayer mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: This game is rated T by the ESRB and contains Blood, Violence, and Language. The chibi art style makes the game seem oddly harmless for a title largely about shooting zombies. The story goes to some mildly dark places, but nothing so traumatic that even younger teens should have much of a problem with it.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: I played the majority of the game without sound and encountered no difficulties. There’s a sound cue that lets players know when a hidden zombie has activated, but the traps are never too cheap, so the occasional surprise shouldn’t cause much trouble. All information is displayed via text.
Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls.