Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle Preview — Survival Horror From the Ancient Times

Daymare: 1994 is shaping up to be a fun fix for survival horror lovers in search of a new nightmare.

Since the original Resident Evil hit the PlayStation way back in 1996, we’ve seen a lot of games try to capture the magic of Capcom’s survival horror classic. Some have had much better luck than others, but the passing years haven’t diminished the urges of new game developers to pay homage to the king of gaming horror. Daymare, from Invader Studios and Leonardo Interactive, is unabashedly following in Capcom’s bloody boot prints.

There’s a pretty good chance you missed the Daymare: 1998. It had a fairly low-key release on PC (2019) and consoles (2020). Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle is a prequel to that game, so it seems like a reasonable starting point for newcomers. Due out later this year, we took some time to check out an early preview demo for the sharp-looking take on survival horror.

Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle Preview — Survival Horror from the Ancient Times

Right from the start, Daymare: 1994 instantly feels very familiar. Controls are thankfully not quite as irksome as the ancient tank-like play of the original Resident Evil and the camera is a bit more user-friendly, but otherwise, this definitely looks, feels, and plays like a revamped lost artifact of the PS2 era. That’s the point, however, not a criticism. 

The graphics are sharp and detailed but have a distinct sort of style that harkens back to the PS2. It’s not cutting edge by any means, but things look decent. The gameplay leans heavily on mixing up combat and puzzles, with plenty of scrounging for ammo and other supplies amidst the rather maze-like maps in the demo. 

Daymare: 1994 puts players into the boots of special agent Dalila Reyes. Reyes works for H.A.D.E.S., which is short for the Hexacore Advanced Division for Extraction and Search. You can tell she works for them based on the weird backpack she wears that advertises the logo with an alarmingly bright blue neon light. So, clearly it’s not that secret of an organization. 

Reyes finds herself stuck with the task of exploring the “most advanced experimental research center in the U.S.”, where bad things have clearly happened as such bad things are wont to do in secret science places. It’s the usual B-movie setup that powers most games of this sort, and the facility thus far seems a fine place for a horror show. Full of dim corridors and passages, large industrial rooms, and weird glowing science things, the location seems like an ideal place for lumbering zombies and hideous toothsome aberrations. 

To help deal with such problems, Agent Reyes has an interesting freeze thrower (hence the glowy blue backpack) that is used to both slow down monsters and solve puzzles. She can use it to put out fires in her way and, in one example, freeze overheating reactor pipes to open a blast door. It’s fun to use on the zombies we encountered as well, since completely freezing them lets you deal a crushing ice-making final blow.

Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle — Coming Attractions

Taken on its merits, Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle is shaping up to put on a pretty good show for those in need of a new horror fix. Capcom isn’t likely to be pumping anything but re-re-releases of older Resident Evil for a while, so we appreciate others stepping in to fill the survival-horror void.

The demo looks fine and shows off some interesting monsters, locales, and puzzles. Our time with the demo was hampered by weirdly glitchy and unresponsive controls, however. Camera and aiming controls in particular were unworkably sluggish at times, making both combat and one particular puzzle frustrating. 

That said, this is just an early demo of a very unfinished game. We’d expect the controls to get cleaned up by release sometime later this year. Be sure to check out the free demo yourself during Steam Next Fest, available now.

Contributor

Jason D'Aprile has been writing about games and technology for a very long time. His bylines have appeared on and in countless sites and magazines over the years, including Paste Magazine, Playboy, G4TV, Indie Game Website, UploadVR, Techhive, Lifewire, the Brick Moon Fiction podcast, United Front Gaming, and others he's mostly forgotten about. Jason lives in a house in the woods and does not twit.

Published Feb. 22nd 2022

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