Heaven Dust II – Review
Follow Genre: Survival horror game
Developer: One Gruel Studio
Publisher: indienova
Platform: Switch, PC
Tested on: Switch

Heaven Dust II – Review

Site Score
Good: Wel-designed environmental puzzles
Bad: Fails in creating the right atmosphere
User Score
(2 votes)
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Rating: 7.5/10 (2 votes cast)

Last month saw the arrival of Heaven Dust II, the sequel to indie developer One Gruel Studio’s 2019 title Heaven Dust. With its Resident Evil-inspired setting, it’s sure to draw the attention of fans of old-school survival horror titles. Can Heaven Dust II capitalize on this and deliver an experience reminiscent of the games it clearly draws inspiration from? Read on if you want to find out.


The opening cutscene presents us with what we assume is the aftermath of the events that occurred in the first Heaven Dust game. In the introduction, a retrieval team manages to evacuate a single survivor, the so-called “second host”, from a facility that has been completely destroyed. The survivor is taken to a secured facility and kept in stasis in a cryogenic pod, as the research team aims to rule out that our unlucky victim has mutated. Unsurprisingly, this second host is our protagonist, Steve. It would seem like the research team that manages the facility needs to invest in better security, however, because as soon as the opening scene is over, Steve wakes up from his cryogenic sleep and is able to walk around the facility without anyone keeping an eye on him.

This all ties into a plan of the mysterious Alexander, who has left Steve a trail of notes that should aid our hero in escaping from the facility. It’s now up to Steve to get out of there, but that’s easier said than done, as the place is overrun by the undead. The majority of the backstory is told through Alexander’s diary-style notes, which are scattered around the facility and which do not just contain clues but also aid in piecing together what happened. We should point out that a major gripe we had with these is that they were poorly translated and are full of grammatical errors as a result. This poor translation can affect your playthrough, as sometimes a clue necessary to progress can be difficult to figure out simply because it’s not written in clear English. In addition to these notes, encounters with NPCs further flesh out the world of Heaven Dust II.


We’re not quite sure what to make of Heaven Dust II’s art style. The chibi-esque character designs -which reminded us somewhat of Bravely Default II’s visuals- look good enough, but they don’t fit the overall atmosphere that the game tries to establish. On the other hand, the isometric environments look absolutely fantastic with gorgeous lighting effects and a wealth of details. The game’s visual performance is fairly smooth most of the time, though we did notice that the frame rate struggled when there was a lot of action on-screen at the same time. This may not be as much of an issue in the PC version as it is on the Switch.


We highly recommend playing Heaven Dust II with headphones on, because the game relies on ambient sounds not just for setting the right mood but also for certain gameplay elements, such as figuring out enemy positions. The sound effects are effective but unremarkable, and there was nothing here that stood out with regards to the music, which seems like a carbon copy of the Resident Evil OST instead of delivering something original. This makes sense given the general idea behind Heaven Dust II but it makes for a forgettable soundscape. Voice acting is notably absent, with the exception of the sounds made by enemies, although we’d put these under ambient sounds as well.


Although Heaven Dust II is presented as an isometric survival horror game, it’s easy to look past the cutesy top-down presentation and see the similarities to the Resident Evil series, which has adopted a different perspective over the years. The similarities shouldn’t come as a surprise, as One Gruel Studio itself has referred to Heaven Dust II as a love letter to the classics of the survival horror genre. Although the first Heaven Dust is also available on the Switch, we haven’t played it, so we can’t compare the two titles in the series and point out any improvements made, but fortunately, Heaven Dust II works as a standalone title well enough.

Your ultimate goal is to escape the facility of course, and in order to do so, you won’t just need to shoot your way out, but you’ll also need to do some thinking along the way. Heaven Dust II is filled with environmental puzzles that you’ll need to clear in order to make your way through the various levels. You’ll need to track down the right items to solve many of these too, and we found ourselves scratching our heads occasionally, as it wasn’t always clear which item to use. Luckily, we’re not talking about the same level of obtuseness that we’ve seen in some point-and-click adventure titles. None of the puzzles break new ground or are particularly inventive, but the game does require thinking outside the box occasionally.

Dealing with enemies is a different story altogether, however. Unlike the Resident Evil series, which puts emphasis on the ‘survival’ aspect of ‘survival horror’, Heaven Dust II relies on you blasting your way through rather than avoiding direct confrontation with your enemies. It’s a pretty big design flaw in a game that limits your resources -including ammo- and it’s all due to poor enemy placement. In a game where every bullet counts, it’s important that the developer carefully chooses when and where enemies appear, if only to give the impression of a fair game. In Heaven Dust II, however, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the hordes of zombies. The game seems to miss the ball here and relies on you going in guns blazing rather than taking a more stealthy approach. The boss battles are a particularly egregious example, relying on you bringing as much firepower to the fight as possible, instead of challenging you with figuring out attack patterns and building a strategy around them.

We don’t want to say that Heaven Dust II is a bad game, but when the developers promise a game that pays homage to an iconic genre, it’s unavoidable that we’d compare how well the two compare. Heaven Dust II doesn’t quite deliver on that promise, unfortunately. It’s still an impressive effort, given that it was developed by a two man team, but we simply cannot ignore the elephant in the room. Remove your expectations regarding survival horror from the equation and what you get is a decent but unremarkable zombie-themed puzzle action game. It still feels very polished, with tight controls, well-designed levels, and a compelling story, but you’re not quite getting what’s on the tin.


Although Heaven Dust II doesn’t quite achieve what it sets out to do in terms of setting and atmosphere, it’s still a decent game featuring inventive puzzle designs and fun action gameplay. The best way to describe what went wrong here is to compare the game to making a meal: the individual ingredients used here are of good quality, but they just don’t go together well, and the resulting dish is underwhelming. It’s still edible but it’s not something we’d recommend if you’re deciding what to choose for dinner.

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Rating: 7.5/10 (2 votes cast)
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Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
Heaven Dust II - Review, 7.5 out of 10 based on 2 ratings

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