Daymare 1994: Sandcastle Review
Available on PC, Xbox One, Series X/S, PS4, PS5 and Nintendo Switch
Version tested: PC and Steam Deck
Daymare: 1998 launched back in 2019 and made a fairly good impression in the horror genre. Now we finally have a prequel to 1998 with Daymare 1994: Sandcastle, here’s hoping Invader Studios have built on the previous title with more difficult gameplay, puzzles and the very important in the horror genre resource management.
As soon as you get started the obvious thing you may notice is that the game closely resembles Resident Evil 2 with very similar camera angles as well as the grainy lowly lit visuals all adding to the horror feel of the game. The visuals aren’t quite at the level of RE2 and can be very grainy, we do need to remember this isn’t a triple A Capcom game it’s a low budget horror game so try to keep expectations with that in mind.
Playing as Dalila Reyes you are put into the third person adventure as a special agent for an organisation known as H.A.D.E.S. This unit is the Hexacore Advanced Division For Extraction and Search. Following events near the Air Forces Groom Lake facility or more commonly known as Area 51 you are tasked with your unit to investigate the facility and extract a briefcase with extremely valuable data. From the off things don’t go to plan and it isn’t long before you are face to face with some of the games enemies which are hell bent on getting up close and trying to kill you.
The puzzles in the Sandcastle also start early and there isn’t that much hand holding as you will have to be listening to make sure your up to date with what to do next. Finding certain items will be the only way to progress and unlock new rooms.
The combat is where Daymare really starts to stumble, weapons feel inaccurate and the hit detection is just off, more than enough to feel annoying! Enemies constantly charge at you and the combat had to be perfect for it to work but sadly it just isn’t. If enemies make it close enough while running at you with super speed and teleportation they will then grab you and completely suck the life out of Reyes while your mashing buttons to try and get them off, this is extremely frustrating especially as it happens often, hitting them before they manage to get hold of you is a nightmare as mentioned before with dodgy hit detection as well as very choppy framerates.
It’s not all doom and gloom though the Frost Grip is a bit of a saving grace! It’s basically a freezing tool that can freeze or slow enemies making them a little more manageable. There is a kind of finisher for the Frost Grip that if you manager to freeze an enemy you can perform the Frost Finisher which smashes enemies into millions of little pieces, in turn a much more efficient way of dispatching foes!
Upgrades to the Frost Grip can be performed at upgrade stations and allow improvements to it such as increases to the tools power and distance as well as unlocking other items such as frost mines. After playing through the game once it’s very apparent that all the upgrades can’t be achieved in one playthrough, only time will tell though if there is enough here to keep players coming back for another playthrough to unlock everything.
Sound quality was ok with an eerie feel to it, while voice acting in the cut-scenes was ok but very cheesy at times. Lip-syncing was pretty bad but going back to what was said before this isn’t a big money triple A game and in fairness the studio has done a fairly good job.
Daymare !994: Sandcastle could be decent horror game with a few tweaks and patches, especially the combat and framerate issues. The story line is ok and visuals do the job but it certainly wont be for everyone and most won’t be able to look past the severe lack of polish throughout. If you played and enjoyed 1998 then 1994 might be worth a try but if your after a polished good scare then back to RE2 might be your best bet!
5.9 / 10
Code was provided free of charge for my honest unbiased review.
Daymare 1994: Sandcastle
- Frost Grip is good fun to use
- Enemies are a welcome change from the usual zombies in most horror games
- Atmosphere can feel scary at times
- Eerie visuals and sound
- Combat needs some TLC
- Performance in areas is very choppy with framerates dropping low enough to influence the combat
- Derivative of Resident Evil
- Cheesy voice acting and bad cut-scenes