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Daymare 1994: Sandcastle Review (PS5) – A Simpler And Cleaner Sequel


Daymare 1994: Sandcastle PS5 Review – The original Daymare 1998 wasn’t exactly the most polished horror game to grace our screens. It came with plenty of issues, but it gained a cult following nonetheless. When Sandcastle was announced, I was surprised that it would be getting a sequel or, in this case, a prequel. In a way, it’s a good thing because it provides developer Invader Studios with a way to show what they can do with a bigger budget and experience behind them.

Daymare 1994: Sandcastle PS5 Review

A More Focused And Easier Story To Understand

Daymare 1994: Sandcastle tells the story of Reyes, a member of H.A.D.E.S.a private military group owned by Hexacore, a Biogenetics corporation. Reyes is sent into Area 51. Area 51 has gone quiet, and no communications have been received from them.

Reyes and two of her teammates are sent in to find out what happened in the military complex and recover a secret briefcase. They aren’t the ones, though, as the President of the United States has also sent in special forces for the same reasons.

The story in Sandcastle is referenced in Daymare 1998, and we finally get to find out what happened in the corporation. Though you play as Reyes, you’ll encounter some of the characters that appeared in Daymare 1998, and the events leading up to the travesty that transpired in 1998 are discussed throughout the game.

The story isn’t too bad and is much easier to follow than in 1998. It takes plenty of cues from other titles like Dead Space and Resident Evil, but that’s only because they inspire it so heavily. It started as a simple what happened in the facility to experiment based on the famed Philadelphia Experiment.

Unfortunately, while the narrative gets off to a solid start, it quickly starts fumbling with its secondary characters. They have very little screen time, and though I’m supposed to believe they play a significant role in the story, it’s hard to justify it when they only appear for a few minutes in the twelve-hour story.

Fun Use Of Cryo Weaponry To Take Down You’re Foes

The gameplay has gotten a massive overhaul. Gone is the dumbfounding ammo and clip system from the first game and the resources needed to get through the game. Sandcastle is much more streamlined and user-friendly, and plays like your traditional survival horror romp as a result.

Reyes only has access to two different firearms: the shotgun and submachine gun. These weapons can be upgraded with upgrade parts you find in locked rooms and lockers that you must solve puzzles to access. Reyes’s other weapon is her Frost Grip; a cryogenic spray gun she shoots out of her arm.

The Frost Grip is a fun tool to use as it’s used for combat and to solve puzzles. Enemies in Sandcastle are susceptible to the Frost Grip. You can freeze them and then shatter them or slow them down to give you time to escape. It’s not infinite; you must replenish your cryo fluid with an item or wait for it to regenerate over time.

The Frost Grip can also be upgraded through Cryo machines in Area 51, although each station only provides one upgrade and shuts down afterward. You’ll have to find another to get any other upgrades. These upgrades allow Reyes to shoot cryo bullets at enemies to slow them down at a distance or even create an ice shield to protect her from long-range attacks.

Combat is pretty simple with over-the-shoulder shooting. The enemies this time around are much more formidable than in 1998. There isn’t a large variety, with only three major enemies throughout the game. However, this works to Sandcastle’s advantage as these foes are more than enough to provide a suitable challenge and memorable trip through Area 51.

Challenging Monsters And Encounters

Your standard enemy is a resurrected corpse that runs at you at high speeds and grabs you. They don’t strike you but rather drain your health the longer they hold on to you. Not only are they fast, but they teleport around the area, making them hard to hit. Once you defeat one, if other bodies are lying around the room, an orb will pop out of their remains and seek the next corpse to resurrect. The key is dissipating the orb using an ice bullet before it finds a new host.

The other two enemies are a little easier to deal with. One shoots electrical orbs at you from a distance but teleports a lot around the environment, especially if you try and get near them. There’s also mini boss-like adversaries that constantly appear and can summon more corpse enemies. These are particularly irksome as they attempt to grab you for an instant kill.

I had a lot of trouble dealing with each of these enemies. The runner corpses are a pain because they are so fast, giving you almost no time to pull up your weapon to get a shot off. There are even times when they show up with a red color hue around them. These enemies can’t be killed with our firearms and can only be stopped with your Frost Grib and shattered.

Like in the original game, enemies always hide behind corners allowing them to get the upper hand. Many of these issues could be avoided if you had some dodge button to avoid getting grabbed, but there isn’t. You can’t even run away from most enemies because they are faster than you and have little to no recovery time if they somehow miss grabbing you. It’s easier to let them grab you and freeze them after shoving them off yourself.

Sandcastle Is Oozing With Atmosphere

Area 51 is a fun place to explore. The entire facility is an underground city with medical buildings, a whole town, a children’s school, and a secret laboratory. Sandcastle nails the atmosphere and is generally creepy.

Each location provides various puzzles to solve that are entertaining. Checking doors by moving numbers and letters around to match up with the passcode you’re looking for is tense because you have a time limit. If you fail, you’re locked out of that. Environmental puzzles are also fun, calling back to PS1 Resident Evil games, even paying homage to them with chesspiece door locks much like Resident Evil 2 had.

Graphically, Sandcastle isn’t going to blow the industry away. It’s not the prettiest game, but it oozes the atmosphere thanks to its application of real-time lighting. Though just like the first game, it’s also very dark, and your flashlight hardy provides any real lighting to light your path.

Another big problem is the reflections. Everything looks a little too shiny, and when it reflects, it reflects your camera angle. When looking into a mirror, it just reflects your camera angle and the light on your cryopack. It confused me many times in the game and made me think that an enemy was next to me.

Sound Design Is Hit And Miss

Sound design is also hit-and-miss. The environmental sounds are solid; hearing creatures in the distance certainly keeps you on your toes and really helps sell the atmosphere. Voice acting is a bit of a mixed bag too, as some character performance are decent enough while others noticeably suffer. At one point, Reyes goes in and out of a Hispanic accent during a cutscene, while one character towards the end of the game was so badly acted that I almost burst out laughing.

Daymare 1994: Sandcastle is an excellent example of a developer addressing what worked and what didn’t in a previous game. Gone are most of the annoying issues that held Daymare 1998 back, and in its place, plenty of improvements make the game not only fun but playable.

The Daymare franchise is promised as a trilogy, and if there is going to be a third game, I hope it takes the best of both titles and dumps the worst of the games to give it a great final entry into the franchise.

Daymare 1994: Sandcastle is now available for PS5 & PS4.

Review code kindly provided by PR



The Final Word

Daymare 1994: Sandcastle is a fun title that improves on almost all the issues from the original. It provides an excellent atmosphere and fun combat situations where you can use cryo abilities. It's not a perfect game, though, with some bad voice acting, really dark lighting, and being unable to dodge attacks leaves you open to strikes. Invader Studios will hopefully build on these qualities for the promised third instalment in the series.