In 2019, Invader Studios released their love letter to survival horror games of the past, Daymare 1998. Now they’re back with its prequel, Daymare 1994: Sandcastle. Players partake in events mentioned in the first game as they take on the role of Dalila Reyes, a former Marine and current member of the HADES unit, as she must survive unexplained horrors in Area 51. I want to thank Invader Studios for allowing me the chance to check out the game!
Now to the game itself!Daymare 1994: Sandcastle‘s controls are standard for a third-person over-the-shoulder game. I wish there could have been a tutorial level at the game’s start, as you seem to be dropped right into the story. Regardless, I do like that you can look at the tutorial in the pause menu, which can be helpful if you have not played the game for a while and are returning to it.
The sound design and soundtrack of Daymare 1994: Sandcastle is decent. An issue I have is with the voice acting. At times, the dialogue delivery is a bit flat. Where you would expect a bit more emotion comes a slight monotone response from Dalila. At other times, she delivers her lines well, giving her performance the other half the time looking like the actress returned to the recording booth to redo lines.
The main issue with Daymare 1994: Sandcastle was the poor rendering of textures and graphics. Dalila and the other characters’ outfits have patches on their uniforms that are very blurry. This issue also extends to the game’s environment, with signs blurred and set pieces smooth, giving the game an “unfinished” look. This is quite a shame since all promotional screenshots and videos showed the game looking crisp and detailed.
Daymare 1994: Sandcastle‘s gameplay will remind you of some of the older Survival Horror games. There are puzzles to solve, especially if you want to hack into an electronic lock to find goodies in lockers. Exploration is rewarded with items or locating gray alien bobbleheads that you destroy. There are challenges you can complete during gameplay that allow you to unlock extras, mainly concept art. You can fight with a shotgun, submachine gun (they call it an assault rifle for some reason), or a weapon called the frost grip. The frost grip can slow down enemies, freeze them solid, and put out fires.
Overall, Daymare 1994: Sandcastle is OK if you can look past the poorly rendered graphics and delivered dialogue. You should be able to find some enjoyment in it. Some well-placed jump scares will keep you on your toes and with rewarding combat and puzzle-solving.
On my scale of 1-10, Daymare 1994: Sandcastle is a 7.
Daymare 1994: Sandcastle is out now on PC, PlayStations 4 and 5, and Xbox One and Series X/S.