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  • Writer's pictureOle Gamer Joe

Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle Review - A Bone-Chilling Survival Horror Game

I was a fan of Invader Studios 2019 third person survival horror release Daymare: 1998, and I will die on that hill damn it. So then, I have personally been looking forward to the sequel, or should I say prequel, Daymare: 1994, Sandcastle!

In Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle Invader Studios are taking a bit more of an action approach with this franchise, though fear not, as there are still plenty of memos to read, cringy cutscenes to watch, and puzzles to crack. This time around you'll play as Dalia Reyes, a member of the HADES unit. You awaken to half empty beer bottles and left over pizza, kind of like my 20s, along with terrible news out of Rachel Nevada, where a horrible accident has taken place! An unexpected earthquake has injured and even killed a few students and caused significant damage to the surrounding area. Long story short you and the major are wisped off into a dangerous campaign that will have you blasting horrific zombie like creatures and even freezing them? Yes, you'll be going subzero on their asses this time around.

Survival horror flames
Daymare: 1994 feels more like a modern remake in many ways.

Daymare 1994's story is just as campy and ridiculous as one would expect, with the poor voice acting either adding to the charm, or the cringe depending on your love for lame ass horror. I personally eat this stuff up, I get the joke, but for some, this will just be a terrible story, with bad acting, and strangely, really well directed cutscenes. Things just get more and more ridiculous the further you play but that is part of the fun.

Alright look, I can't sit here and tell you this is a well written narrative, but what I can say is it had me laughing my ass off. Whether that was intentional or not, you'll have to ask the developers. One thing I think we will agree on however, is that Daymare 1994 has a shocking amount of polish in its visual presentation, with a surprisingly decent combat engine.

Players will encounter long stretches of walking, grabbing key items, and stumbling about to find the next location in order to progress things forward. There are no surprises in that department, other than your character looking like she has shit in her britches whenever she runs, but eventually you'll find more and more combat. Navigation can be a bit of a pain in the ass, as I did get lost on multiple occasions, but it is clear the developer tried to tighten down the level design and make it somewhat straightforward in order to avoid having to create a complex map or waypoint system. Still, plenty of time was lost by just missing a little hallway or an area that I didn't notice. Puzzles are pretty standard fare. There's plenty of, "get this item here, then run there, then insert it!" or your generic unscramble puzzle, but they aren't egregiously bad or overly difficult.

Which speaking of difficulty, you do have 3 options here, which makes the game pretty accessible for folks that don't excel at this genre.

girl exploring survival horror world.
Combat might be janky but that doesn't mean it isn't fun.

Combat in daymare 1994 is equal parts fun and frustrating! Switching between weapons is very smooth, as to is aiming. shooting feels very quick and responsive. The game also attempts something a bit different when you unlock an additional weapon that can freeze enemies. This weapon comes in limited supply, so you'll need to use it wisely before having to fill it back up, but the results can be really fun. You see, in this game enemies come back to life in a rather interesting way. Downing your foes often sends an electric ball of light flying out of their bodies, which will then enter a nearby corpse and bring it back to try and kill you. Your best option to kill foes for good is to freeze them entirely, and then blast them to pieces. Enemies will also lunge at you, so you'll need to mash on the A button in order to escape. I think my biggest gripe with the combat would be enemy AI. These monsters love to ride right on your butt, and even worse, some of them are capable of one hit kills. The game could have benefitted from some more advanced dodge abilities to counteract these nuisances. I took many deaths and repeated battles at nauseum due to the relentless pursuit of these bastards, and that was a bit frustrating.

Sure, on occasion I did have a few of my zombie friends grab me out of nowhere, and there is some jank to the combat, but in all honesty, it goes well with the overall vibe of this game, and I did have some fun with it. The button mapping is pretty well executed as I had no issues healing when I needed to, aiming down sights, or switching between the ice gun and my normal weapons. You'll also encounter the occasional upgrade station which adds additional freezing abilities, like an ice shield!

All of that said, nothing about this game feels all that 1994 to me outside of the goofy story and voice performances. The 90s brought classics like Sanitarium, D, Alone in the Dark, Clock Tower, and of course Resident Evil. But you won't really get that vibe here so much, rather, this feels more like one of the resident evil remakes of more recent times than it does an actual game from the early 90s. So, the title may confuse some, though I am sure the real intention was to show that this is in fact a prequel. Still, with the mechanics feeling so modern, it does beg the question, just who is the target audience? Old school survival horror fans might not be as into this one as fans of newer games will be.

But on to the visuals, which honestly, are some of the best I have ever seen out of an indie. This game looks incredible, and I was able to max it out at the 4k resolution getting a nice locked 60fps. While the character models are maybe a little lacking, the rest of this title is stunning to behold, with outstanding lighting, cool enemy design, awesome effects, and atmospheric labs and facilities to explore. I was truly blown away by the look and performance of this one but do note I have a pretty good graphics card being a 4070, so results may vary. With the recommended card being 2016's 1060, this one shouldn't be too taxing on your hardware, but will absolutely take advantage of more beastly rigs, I loved the presentation.

survival horror monster
The visuals in Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle are very impressive for an indie release.

I think I have harped on the voice acting enough, but one shout out I got to give out is the BASS. This game has some serious tone, and the bigger explosions sound incredible, even on my wee little soundbar. This game will rattle your living room, and mostly sounds excellent throughout.

All told, Daymare 1994 is a janky product as was its predecessor, but it kind of worked for me. While recognizing its flaws I still had a ton of fun with the combat and the campy story, with the outstanding visuals keeping me invested. It isn't perfect, but what is? Recommended for fans of newer remakes like resident evil 2 and 3 but expect just a sprinkle of the past in the storytelling. A solid sequel...err...prequel.


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