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Horror Comes For Us All–Even The Children
Dead Space 2, released in 2011, remains a pillar within the survival horror genre. It’s a story and concept that’s influenced an entire generation of video games. But it didn’t get to such legendary status by having the best jump scares or being the goriest. They obtained such a sterling reputation because they pushed boundaries that other games were too afraid to push. Dead Space 2 and the entire Dead Space series went places other franchises only toyed with going. They suited up and boldly walked into the zero gravity halls of hell that not even Doom or Diablo were brave enough to enter.
And nowhere is that more evident than in Chapter 6 of Dead Space 2. The Nursery.
I’ve played through the entirety of the Dead Space series. I own the graphic novels, the standard novels, and there’s a mini marker statue sitting by my computer as I write this.
So allow a dedicated C.E.C. Engineer like myself to walk you through why the Nursery, more than just about any other section in the Dead Space series, is certifiably fucked up. Let’s kick off this Dead Space 2 Nursery guide with some key info up front.
Key Info Up Front
Curious as to what the Nursery is? Not into reading an entire article.
I get it.
Let me sum it up like this.
Necromorph outbreak comes to Titan Station, and as all outbreaks do, it spares no one. Not the elderly, not the mentally ill, and certainly not the children.
As Issac Clarke forges through the horrors of Titan Station and searches for a cure for his insanity, he must go through Titan Station Elementary. Within the Elementary is the Nursery.
And the outbreak’s variation turns the Elementary’s students into… things.
How It Fits Into The Story
The story of Dead Space 2 sees Issac Clarke, the protagonist of the first title, two years after his fight with the hive mind of Aegis 7. He’s been kept a drugged prisoner on Titan Station, and now that he’s awake, he wants nothing more than to get off station. Because there’s a Necromorph outbreak, just like the one on the U.S.G. Ishimura in Dead Space 1, and Issac wants nothing to do with it.
Where does the elementary school fit into all of this?
Throughout his journey, Issac makes his way through almost every part of Titan Station. He goes through hospitals, apartment complexes, and churches. He ducks through train stations, garbage shoots, and seems overly fond of claustrophobic maintenance tunnels.
One of the many environments Issac finds himself clawing through like a sci-fi rat is Titan Station Elementary, home of the Space Tigers.
The Nursery resides within the Elementary school, and though it doesn’t bear too much weight in the overall story, it’s an essential part of the Dead Space 2 experience.
Tools For The Job
The usual suspects will do nicely. Your trusty Plasma Cutter by your side will be fine. Just make sure you’ve got ammo for days. Having your health upgraded wouldn’t hurt, either.
I like to go through this section with my Pulse Rifle. You’ll be facing a large number of the Pack, and I find mowing those little creatures down with pulse rounds the most efficient means of eradication.
Bring health. I shouldn’t have to say that, but nonetheless, you just read what you read. There is a store in the terminal station right before you enter the school—stock up. And don’t forget to save right next to the store as well. There will be plenty of places within the school to save, but it doesn’t hurt to have a nice starting point.
That’s Why They Call It Horror
You’ll be up against babies in this section.
Yeah. Undead, mutated, Necromorphic babies.
Specifically, Crawlers; babies infected by the Necromorph outbreak and mutated into slug monsters with explosive sacks on their backs.
The helpful thing about these Crawlers is that they’re so fragile, that you don’t need to waste ammo on them. Many times picking up an item from the environment with kinesis–a toy truck, a chair, a student’s desk–and shooting it at the Exploders is usually enough to stop them in their slug trail.
However, their explosive sacks can stay active; for whatever reason, they are harder to destroy than the Crawler’s body.
So if you decide to conserve ammo and shoot the environment at the babies, avoid their corpses. They will act like mines.
Can we stop for a second and appreciate how wildly sinister that is? Like, who came up with this idea? The Devil? What sort of virus, I don’t care if it’s alien or not, turns babies into slimy, crawling, mewling bombs?
It’s a concept that I haven’t seen many other games touch on. Heck, some games don’t even have female infected, let alone children–let alone babies! And here’s Dead Space literally chucking explosive slug spawns at you like it’s a game of dodgeball.
But as with most things Dead Space, the concept alone isn’t what makes it stick in our minds. It’s the presentation. And as you’ll see early on in Titan Station Elementary, the presentation is to die for.
Shortly after getting betrayed by that clown Diana from the Church of Unitology, Issac will find himself facing an airlock door with greetings written in a dozen different languages. A Space Tiger mascot sits to the right of the door, wearing a space suit and looking creepy.
If gamers look closely, they’ll notice little paper cut-outs the students made hanging above the door. One of them is obviously a marker spreading its glorious convergence, further showing how widespread this outbreak was.
Upon entering the school, your choices are to go left or go right. Head left and pick up the health pack sitting in the corner. As you approach the health pack, you’ll get a hint of the enemies you’ll be facing: Crawlers.
Don’t let the flickering lights or the creepy music or the constant sound of babies babbling make you uneasy. There are specific places the game will throw some jump scares at you, and they aren’t for a while. You’re safe.
For the most part.
Head to the right, and you’ll walk past a window showing a locked room. Inside the room is a teacher who’s survived this long. She isn’t bloodied or wounded or mutated. She is, however, beckoning to something just off-screen.
If you decide to stick around and watch, you’ll see exactly what you’re up against. A Crawler will wriggle into the light and make its way over to the teacher. It will crawl up onto her chest, curl up with her, and then explode. The insides of them both paint the window and end the scene.
Make your way down the hall past all the locked doors. You’ll eventually hear the PA trigger and a woman say, “Okay, everyone! Fifteen minutes for recess! Play Niiiiice!”
And now you get to enter the Nursery proper.
Head into the first unlocked door you find, and you’ll enter a room with baby cribs all over the place. There’s a dead body in the corner opposite the door and a doorway on the far wall.
Don’t get too comfy as Crawlers will start pouring into the room, about six of them. They’ll enter through a hole in the wall and the open doorway. Use kinesis to shoot items at them or open fire; they pop pretty quickly, so the choice is yours. But if you find yourself cornered before you can kinesis them, shoot them.
After those six, don’t get too cocky because there are seven more in the next room.
You can trigger them by dipping into the next room, then falling back to the first room and waiting for them to come through the doorway. It’s an easy way to funnel them through a choke point, and it allows you to save ammo as one’s explosion can kill numerous others.
Moving on into the next room, which is filled with desks in rows, do not walk up the middle aisle. A single Crawler will drop out of the ceiling right in the middle row, and if you’re too close, it’ll just explode as it’s dropping and do some severe damage.
At the far end of this room is a desk with a dead body and a green ammo crate behind it. Once you’ve got the ammo, move on.
Take the hallway to the next room you can enter. Welcome to the nurses’ office. You’re safe here.
Take some time to read the text file sitting on the counter. It’s from a nurse who thinks the recent spike in injuries stemming from violence isn’t typical and should be investigated. Too bad she’s a little too late.
Circle the room and hit the supply containers on the walls. Grab what items you can. Save or don’t save, totally up to you.
Step out and into the next hallway, but be careful!
Issac will hallucinate as all the lockers next to him fly open, their doors synchronizing. The screen gets hazy, symbols assault the viewer, and Issac grips his head for a moment before he comes to grips with himself.
Well, that was weird.
At the end of the hallway is some ammo, and you’ll catch another hint. A Leaper dashes by through the shadows. Foreshadowing? Maybe.
The next area is the auditorium, and let me say this:
The auditorium is the hardest part of the Nursery. Make it through the auditorium/gymnasium/shitshow before you, and you’re in the clear.
If you stand outside the auditorium, you can hear the necromorphs within making noise, further foreshadowing what you’re about to face.
Open the door, and you’ll be blocked from accessing the entire room by a line of cafeteria tables before you. Don’t be fooled, as three Pack bastards will immediately leap over those tables and dash towards your throat. Take them out, ensuring they cross the tables first so you can harvest the loot from their bodies and move to the back of the bleachers.
As you duck through the bleachers, you’ll find a survey spike to the right. You definitely want to grab that because at the end of the bleacher tunnel is a dark Puker. Shoot the spike into his leg before he can spit on you, and use whatever gun you like to finish him off. Remember to stay far enough away from his body so you don’t get splashed by his dying vomit.
After the dark Puker, you’ll make your way to the stage. Currently, some props are set up for the play Galactilot, a sci-fi re-telling of Camelot. But they won’t be for long.
Head to the back of the stage, threading your way through the props. Don’t be alarmed by the coming jump scare. As you get to the end of the props, a sun will drop down from the ceiling and scare Issac. I always shoot that damn sun.
You’ll find a panel that’s just asking to be hacked and a glowing stasis canister in the corner. Keep an eye on that canister; once you’re done hacking the panel, you’ll need it.
Is the panel hacked?
Here comes the shitshow.
The stage props will lower into the ground, and the onslaught will begin. I counted anywhere from 14 to 16 of the Pack, 7-9 Crawlers, and an Infector. And if you don’t get that Infector in time, you’ll also have at least two dark Slashers.
Grab that stasis canister and wait for the Pack and the Crawlers to get close. Shoot the ground and freeze them all for a few seconds. It should buy you plenty of time to mow down anything not moving. By the time the rest of the enemies get to the stage, you should have taken out a good chunk of them and reloaded to handle the rest.
Once you’ve taken care of the trash, grab the four lockers that appear next to the exit.
We’re almost done.
Head down the hallway. Don’t get scared by the P.A. as it declares recess over. Duck into the room with an unlocked door and check out the text file on the desk. Don’t leave just yet, as the Flamethrower schematic is in the back corner.
Leave the room, dip left quickly to grab some credits, and leave the school.
You’ll enter a small playground with some rocket cars. Take a few steps, and Nicole will show up. Well, evil, undead Nicole. There’s a lovely conversation between her and Issac–“I know you’re not real!”–and then you’re home free.
Just remember to grab the Power Node flashing in the rocket car to your left, then grab the elevator and congratulate yourself. You made it through the Nursery.
Question: Wasn’t there a nursery in Dead Space 1?
Answer: No. There was something much worse. An incubator. Which, I might argue, is more horrifying than a mere Nursery. In Dead Space 1, it seems humans had perfect outer-womb pregnancy, growing fetuses to maturity in vast tanks like weird, sci-fi fish. Those weird sci-fi fish–actually pre-matured human fetuses–were infected by the necromorph outbreak. So you see, Dead Space is known for doing things that make you glad you don’t live in space.
Question: Whenever I kinesis objects at the babies, it never works. What am I doing wrong?
Answer: Sometimes the items are blunt and don’t damage the Crawler enough. There are toy trucks, remotes, and debris that work best against them. If you take the cribs and smash them, you’ll get a bunch of good pieces to use. Some of them will also trigger the explosive sack on the Crawler’s back.
Question: That auditorium is just too hard. How can I get past the onslaught easier?
Answer: Bob and weave! Dodge, dip, duck, dive, and dodge! No, but seriously–you have an entire gymnasium to dance around. Use it. Make sure you have some stasis charges saved up and use them liberally. This room–this moment–is why we stocked up on health and ammo at the store in the terminal station before we entered the school. If you didn’t do that, maybe go back and stock up before trying again.
Question: Dude. Where do I get a mini marker for my desk?
Answer: Where does any gamer get awesome stuff from their favorite game that the official studios are too foolish to release themselves? Etsy.com. Always.
Dead Space 2’s short jaunt through Titan Station Elementary is but a taste of the horror that they could’ve explored. There was an entire colony–one that had existed for at least 100 years–full of necromorphic activity. Dead Space 2 continually threw emotionally heavy scenes at players and expected them to navigate the trauma while dodging murderous space monsters.
Dialogue players hear in the apartments, and notes scrawled in blood by dying residents of the Sprawl set plenty of people on edge already. So it’s understandable why many see the gratuitous boundary-pushing of the Nursery in Dead Space 2 as certifiably fucked up.