Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle Review – Between Promise and Execution
Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle marks the second installment in a franchise that had its origins as a fan remake of Resident Evil 2. The development team’s work was so well-received that when Capcom officially announced a Resident Evil 2 Remake, the developers pivoted from their fan project to create an entirely new intellectual property—thus giving birth to the Daymare series. While the inaugural game received mixed reviews, it demonstrated a certain level of potential that piqued interest.
Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle serves not only as the sequel but also as a prequel to the original game. One of the primary criticisms I had of the first installment was its lack of polish. Given that the development team operates on a smaller scale with fewer resources compared to larger studios, some shortcomings were understandable. However, the awkward animations and outdated visuals were hard to overlook. Fortunately, the second game shows marked improvements in these areas and also takes strides to carve out its own unique identity.
Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle maintains its core identity as a horror-centric, third-person shooter. The narrative delves into the events surrounding the Groom Lake incident, a storyline that fans of the first game will likely recognize. Unlike its predecessor, which featured multiple playable characters, this prequel narrows its focus to deliver a more cohesive story. Players assume the role of Dalila Reyes, a special agent with HADES, who is dispatched to an advanced research facility in the United States. This facility is none other than the infamous Area 51, and those familiar with its lore may have some inkling of the narrative direction.
Upon entering this clandestine government base, Dalila is immediately confronted with reanimated corpses, brought back to life under enigmatic circumstances. One of the shortcomings carried over from Daymare: 1998 is the lack of enemy variety. Enemies are generally categorized as either ranged, melee, or teleporting types—the latter being capable of instantly killing the player’s character. The game tends to cycle through these enemy types, leading to a gameplay experience that can become monotonous rather quickly. Despite efforts to refine the controls, they remain somewhat cumbersome, resulting in animations and gunplay that leave much to be desired.
Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle incorporates puzzles alongside its combat elements, drawing inspiration from the classic Resident Evil series. Some puzzles necessitate finding key items to advance, while others involve environmental challenges that make use of a unique weapon called the Frost Grip. This weapon also serves a dual purpose by quickly freezing enemies. Ammunition is limited, making conservation crucial, especially given the game’s flawed encounter system. However, in a nod to the Resident Evil formula, enemies do occasionally drop ammunition, mitigating the risk of running out.
As a sequel, Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle represents a marked improvement over its predecessor in terms of animations, gameplay mechanics, inventory management, and graphical quality. However, these enhancements only elevate the game from poor to mediocre. For those who can overlook its B-grade combat and narrative, the game offers a degree of enjoyment. For fans of the first installment, the sequel provides further insights into familiar characters and their fates.
The game features an array of text files scattered throughout its levels, aiming to enrich the lore and contextualize the unfolding events, much like the collectibles found in Capcom’s titles. However, the game’s length feels artificially extended at times, as if the developers were striving for a more substantial campaign. While the main story can be completed in approximately 10 hours, the experience is marred by repetitive puzzles and a lack of enemy variety. The game’s promising opening loses its luster as players delve deeper into the enigmatic Area 51 facility, and the narrative fails to offer sufficient character development to sustain emotional investment.
The PC port of Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle is commendable, delivering pleasing visuals. Interestingly, the game is also compatible with SteamDeck, although I did experience some fluctuations in performance on that platform. One issue that detracted from the visual experience was the game’s overly dark and washed-out appearance. This issue persisted across different displays, including the SteamDeck, despite adjustments to the brightness settings.
In summary, Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle offers an enjoyable experience for those willing to overlook its considerable shortcomings. A more focused narrative, better-developed characters, and a greater variety of enemies and puzzles could have elevated the game to a higher tier of quality. As it stands, however, the game serves as a reasonable budget option for those seeking a third-person horror shooter.
Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle Game Information
- Price: $29.99
- Publisher: Leonardo Interactive
- Developer: Invader Studios
- Platform: PC (Reviewed)
- Disclaimer: A review code was given by the publisher