Daymare: 1998 was one of those horror games that wasn’t particularly good, but in an inoffensive way. The story was messy and the combat was clunky, but there was SOMETHING there for survival horror fans to enjoy – it just felt very C-tier in design, especially when compared to other releases in the genre. You can expect more of the same with Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle, even if there have been some improvements made over the first game.
Check out some screenshots down below:
If the title didn’t give it away, Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle acts as a predecessor to the first game, with players taking on the role of HADES agent Delila Reyes as she investigates a highly advanced facility in Area 51 to recover a mysterious briefcase – all whilst learning more about the disturbing events that have unravelled there. I’ll give you a clue: it involves the undead and a host of other grotesque creatures, all of which want nothing more than to kill you. With more to uncover along the way as well as some conflict with another government organisation, it can make for an intriguing horror journey.
Alas, much like the first game, Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle does have some struggles in the storytelling department. The script is a little naff and cheesy, whilst the sketchy cutscenes and pacing can make it a little tough to feel invested in everything that’s going on. It’s an improvement over the first game, sure, but there were a lot of situations where I found myself wincing at how lame it could be. That’s not to say there aren’t some interesting ideas though… the execution just isn’t always there.
At its core, the game is very much your typical survival horror experience, with dark and eerie locales to explore, logic-based puzzles that’ll require a keen eye and some clever thinking to solve, and plenty of enemies to take down along the way. It’s pretty atmospheric too, with the environmental and sound design standing out as a highpoint, with both doing a good job of making the players feel unnerved and like there could a threat around every corner. In many ways, these are the typical things you’d expect from a survival horror game, with Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle hardly showcasing a rich sense of originality. But hey, it isn’t trying to either, with it a clear love-letter to the Resident Evil series.
“At its core, the game is very much your typical survival horror experience, with dark and eerie locales to explore, logic-based puzzles that’ll require a keen eye and some clever thinking to solve, and plenty of enemies to take down along the way.”
Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle does bring with it some unique ideas though, such as the Frost Grip weapon, which isn’t only used to freeze enemies in place or unleash damage on them, but also ties into the game’s puzzling. It can be upgraded to unlock new abilities too, with it easily standing out as one of the more unique pieces of weaponry that I’ve utilised in a survival horror game. More importantly? It’s fun to use, whilst the upgrades genuinely feel worthwhile and like they allow you to adapt to the varying enemy types you face off against. Sure, you’ll have a couple of other weapons to use too (including the genre favourite shotgun), but it’s the Frost Grip that feels most substantial here.
The enemies are more unique than simply being zombies too, with peculiar sparks of energy floating around that’ll take over the bodies around you and bring them back to life – leave the spark around for too long without destroying it and you’ll find yourself continually facing off against hordes of foes. Some enemies can even teleport as they hunt you down, making them more formidable than the more conventional undead foes of the first game.
Of course, having more unpredictable and challenging enemies does mean that you’ll find yourself in more danger, with the enemy placement of Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle often leaving players in situations that can be a little unfair. Imagine having enemies spawn both in front of you and behind you, all whilst a floating ball of energy can also reanimate those that are not seemingly a threat… yeah, it can make for some slightly frustrating situations, especially when ammo is running low. There’s also one enemy later on in the game that is a REAL bastard to deal with and can even insta-kill you, so get ready to shout out some curse words when playing. As you progress and improve your Frost Grip, it can get easier to manage some of the game’s challenges, but Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle does have some difficulty spikes that can be put down to some poor design choices.
Check out some screenshots down below:
It has its flaws then, but there’s still a good time to be had with Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle. There have been some improvements made over the original game in both its exploration and combat, whilst the visuals can be really impressive at times. There’s nothing in the game that’s outright awful by any means, and whilst the storytelling is naff and the difficulty spikes frustrating, neither feel like they ruin the experience. It just lacks a real sense of polish, whilst it always feels like there’s SOMETHING going on that’s a little awkward and clumsy in design. Again, nothing game-breaking, but, much like its predecessor, it makes Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle feel like a C-tier release.
Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle Review
Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle improves over the original game and has some cool ideas, but it still has some issues that stop it from being a must-play release in the genre. The rough storytelling, iffy enemy placement, and harsh difficulty spikes stand out as the most obvious, but there’s also a lack of polish to the overall experience that sees the game falling short when compared to the big hitters that inspired it.
It’s certainly not a bad game though, and if you’re a fan of survival horror (especially Resident Evil), there’s fun to be had as you experience the sinister adventure. It just doesn’t quite do enough to make it shine in what is a VERY crowded genre.
Developer: Invader Studios
Publisher: Leonardo Interactive, 4Divinity
Platform(s): PC (Reviewed), PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch