Longtime fans of the Nintendo Indie scene should be fairly familiar with the various games produced by Jools Watsham, head of Atooi and co-founder of the now-defunct Renegade Kid development teams. Having developed the first-person horror game Dementium: The Ward for the Nintendo DS in 2007 as well as Mutant Mudds for the Nintendo 3DS, Jools Watsham has been responsible for a plethora of wonderful games over the years.
In the lead-up to today’s rerelease of the classic Nintendo DS horror title Dementium: The Ward for the Nintendo Switch, I got the chance to speak with him about how the new release came about and a bit about the plans for the future.
How Heartbreak Shaped the Future of Dementium
How did Atooi end up getting the rights back to Dementium?
Yeah, it’s a delicate thing because my friend and previous business partner, Gregg Hargrove, he passed away in 2018, and his company had the rights to all the 3D games that we made, whereas my company, we gained the rights to the 2D games. And that was just a… Because when we ended Renegade Kid, it was amicable, and we’re like “This is an easy way to divvy up what we’ve made over the last 10 years.”
Yeah, because you guys did have a pretty good array of 3D and 2D titles between things like Xeodrifter, Mutant Mudds, Dementium, and Moon.
Yeah, exactly. It was fairly even. It was pretty good. It was a nice, simple way of doing it. So we didn’t worry about it being exactly equal. I mean, I guess it’s debatable which is a better list of games based on your perception of what you like and what you dislike. But it made sense at the time. So, unfortunately, he passed away in 2018. I didn’t think about the Dementium stuff for quite a while. And then thoughts of it did enter my mind, and so I did approach Gregg’s widow, who took over responsibility of any of the assets that… his company had.
With the expectation of if she says “no, I want to hold on to it because it is my connection to Gregg”… fair enough. If you want to hold onto it as an emotional thing, I understand. No worries, and that would end that journey and I’d move on and think about something else. So I was prepared for that. And then that would have been totally fine and understandable. But she was open to it.
And yeah, we chatted about it. And the nice thing is we met up for dinner and stuff, both our families. And it was great. We came to a really nice, mutually beneficial agreement, which I won’t go into the details because I don’t know how much she wants to share about that. So that was good. So it was actually a very nice, positive experience. So that was great. And we actually made it official earlier this year.
Well, that’s good to know. So based on that, did that also include things like Moon as well?
No, only Dementium… everything related to Dementium.
Dementium: The Ward Been Jumps To Consoles
So do enemies respawn in this? The respawning enemies was removed in the 3DS release. So I’m curious, is this more of a port of the 3DS version or the original version?
Yes, it’s a port of the 3DS version. So all of the quality of life upgrades we made to that are in this.
On the topic of quality-of-life updates, the game always had the notepad feature. The 3DS version added a couple of pages. Is the notepad still in the Switch release?
No, we took it out. We took it out. We could have done it, right? Because it does have the touch screen. But we were thinking of the potential of other platforms as well. Like if this is a traditional console version of the game, what does that mean? And really, at the end of the day, the notepad was really a neat feature.
And I think it really helped the personality of the game on the DS and the 3DS. Totally made sense. Whether you used it or not, I don’t know. But it was neat that it was there… There is no notepad. You still collect it. It still says the message. You get it with the key and stuff. But it’s not an interactive notepad
On that note, pun intended, the maps that you have, because you had to collect those originally in the DS version, as you know. But in the 3DS version, we just gave them to you from the beginning of the game. You didn’t have to collect the maps. You just have them.
So that obviously is in this one as well. And in addition to that, something I felt, no one asked for this, but I felt it would be nice for newer players and older players, is there is a visual indication of where the save rooms are on the maps. So when you come into a new floor of the building, you can look at the map and go, ah, cool, I’m going to make a beeline for that room. Yeah. You kind of know where you’re going. And it’s not really – That’s neat. It’s helpful to get a feel of your bearings.
So, on the topic of sticking with Dementium for a minute, is there any hope for Dementium II?
There’s definitely hope. I mean, it really depends on how well the first one sells. I was going to say how well it’s received, but man, it’s been received really well, which is amazing.
I’ve been really into retro horror stuff lately, like Iron Lung and Blood Wash. So, seeing this, what I like about it is that it’s literally from the era. So, it’s not technically emulating that era, but it also is at the same time.
I know. It’s weird, right? I appreciate that. It’s funny how it came about, actually. When we originally got the Dementium IP under Atooi’s umbrella, really right then, all I was really mainly thinking about is, hey, let’s make a new Dementium game. Wouldn’t that be cool? Let’s see if we can convince someone to give us money to make a new Dementium game.
It wasn’t until a little later when I was doing research and looking around [at] different horror games and noticing that retro horror is quite a thing. Then I was like “We have a retro horror game. We literally made one.” That’s crazy… Then we had meetings and talked about “Okay, what does it take to do this, that, and the other, and can we do it for October? That’s a pretty tall order,” and we managed to amazingly do it.
I’m just curious, what game from your career would you say is the highlight of your career? Which one do you think is the most fun, and which one are you most proud of? If those are two different answers.
I have two games, and it would be Dementium and Mutant Mudds.
On that topic, is there anything Mutant Mudds potentially happening in the future?
Potentially, yeah. I mean, not right now that we’re able to talk about, but no, I mean, I think we’ll always revisit our games in some way or another. Yeah, for sure. Yeah, definitely. I’d love to go back to all of them in some way. For me, Dementium stands out.
I want to bring up, because it’s just been a while since I’ve heard about it, is there anything still going on with Treasurenauts?
Probably not. I mean, not definitely, no. Maybe someday we’ll get to it, you know? It’s hard for me to see it right now because we have so much going on.
What Does the Future Look Like For Atooi?
We talked quite a bit over the course of our interview about Hatch Tales and more. A lot has changed about Hatch Tales since its Kickstarter first launched as Chicken Wiggle Workshop six years ago, as it has undergone a massive identity shift to better represent what the game is like to play.
Rest assured that Hatch Tales sounds like a wonderful realization of the game many of us backed years ago, and it finally launches on March 28, 2024. Dementium: The Ward is available now for Nintendo Switch on the eShop.
Are you excited to play Dementium: The Ward on the Nintendo Switch? Did you play it on the DS back in the day, or will this be your first experience with it? Sound off in the comments and on our social media feeds!