Welcome to the Terror of 1994
From its humble origin, Daymare could only be described as a series by horror survival fans for horror survival fans. The first entry was born out of a love for Resident Evil 2 while attracting some of the original talent behind the horror icon. Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle is a follow-up to that love letter to Resident Evil.
Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle is a prequel and a homage to the horror survival that we grew up playing. While the first game was specifically a love letter to Resident Evil, this entry gives its heart out to the other classics. This is one of those games you will need to be a genre fan to fully appreciate as it hits all the right marks when it comes to being a fun horror survivor.
Operation Sandcastle is Set
Set four years before the events of Daymare: 1998, players assume the role of Dalila Reyes, an operative for H.A.D.E.S. In response to an unexplained incident at Area 51, her team is dispatched to retrieve a crucial briefcase and extract a high-ranking scientist. Upon their arrival, they are stunned to find the entire base personnel and the military forces responding to the incident have been annihilated.
The mission becomes more complicated as Reyes becomes separated from her team during the infiltration of the base. It’s in this moment of isolation that she encounters the horror responsible for everything. All is not as it appears; her superior knows more than he is sharing while other forces are at work behind the scenes.
The story hits all the right marks when it comes to a game inspired by the horror survival classics. If you grew up playing not just Resident Evil but also games like Dino Crisis, Extermination, or Cold Fear then you will be quick to notice the inspiration. That is okay because that is what you want from a game like this. It also makes no effort to hide it as it wants you to spot these nods. At the same time, players will find a few Easter Eggs that pay tribute to other works such as The X-Files and Aliens.
Immediately, you’ll notice a striking departure from the traditional zombie archetype gamers are accustomed to. These zombies are not the result of a virus or parasite; instead, they’re created from a mysterious energy source. If you’ve seen the film Lifeforce, you’ll have a solid idea of the type of zombies you’ll be confronting. This unique twist not only offers a fresh take on the genre but also introduces distinct challenges in combat scenarios.
Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle builds upon the already successful formula of the titles that inspired it. At the same time, it polishes those gameplay mechanics to enhance the overall experience. Limited resources such as ammo, health, and inventory space remain crucial factors. By being selective in regards to using them, it adds to the overall tension. Unique to the experience is the Frost Grip. This weapon makes it easy to fight the monsters while also allowing players to overcome certain obstacles.
Area 51 along with the Castle is intriguing to explore with terror around every corner. It’s a world you are all too familiar with if you enjoyed playing the classic horror games. The difference here is the attention to detail that really brings it to life. Of course, it also has its fair share of puzzles that put your critical thinking skills to use.
Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle is everything one could ask for in a horror game. Unfortunately, it also has its fair share of issues that can’t really be overlooked. Key among them are the convoluted story and the janky control functions when the combat gets intense.
As much as I enjoyed the story, it gets convoluted halfway through with too many twists and surprises. I’ll do my best to keep this spoiler-free. I would have been happy if the story was about a teleportation experiment gone wrong. Instead, it adds on the origins of the Daymare Toxin and intertwines the blood of a prehistoric creature into the core of the narrative. It’s one of those instances where the story attempts to incorporate more narrative elements than needed.
Like I said earlier; the controls have been better polished and would be perfect if these were standard zombies. Instead, players are fighting zombies that are faster and more maneuverable. Thus the controls will feel janky when the combat gets more intense.
Escape the Castle
Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle is a love letter to the classic horror survivals of the past while also bringing a fresh take on a familiar setup. It has all the defining hallmarks of a classic horror survival while incorporating modern elements. It’s by the books while having a few issues, but that is okay because it’s still a true horror survival.
Disclaimer: Stride PR provided the game used for this review.
This review is the critique and thoughts of one writer. If you want to see how other critics felt then check it out on OpenCritic.
8Bit/Digi is an independent media outlet that provides insight into the gamer community of the San Francisco Bay Area.
Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle (PC)
- It's a horror game for horror game fans.
- Striking departure from the traditional zombie setup.
- Classic gameplay setup while also being more polished.
- Excellent setpieces and world.
- Janky control functions when the combat gets intense.
- Convoluted story with too many twists and surprises.