It’s difficult to stress just how incredible the original Resident Evil games were back in the day. If you didn’t play them back then, you’re not likely to have the same level of appreciation for just how terrific, cheesy, frustrating, obtuse and terrible they were. Terrible in the best way possible.
Over the years, Resident Evil has moved away from its humble beginnings and, for better or worse, barely resembles what it once was. Thankfully, Invader Studios understands and appreciates that classic Resident Evil charm. So much so that it released Daymare: 1998, after work on a fan-made remake of Resident Evil 2 led to a trip to meet with Capcom.
Now, Invader Studios is back with a prequel — Daymare 1994: Sandcastle — featuring a brand-new protagonist and some very “cool” new mechanics.
Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle Preview
The short hands-on preview takes place inside some shadowy, underground laboratory used to perform the kinds of experiments Albert Wesker used to love. New playable character and H.A.D.E.S. operative Dalila Reyes is on a mission to uncover what’s been going on in this facility and stop whatever it’s unleashed from destroying the world.
Reyes is equipped with a submachine gun, a shotgun, a flashlight and a scanner. The scanner allows players to…well, scan the environment to look for clues and find puzzles. As she creeps her way through the facility, Delila will pass by numerous bloody bodies that have been torn to shreds and lots of old tech; it is set in 1994 after all. CRT monitors anyone?
While Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle is inspired by Resident Evil, the enemies aren’t your typical shambling zombies. Instead, they’re strange, electrified rage zombies who show up in packs, rush and overwhelm you very quickly. Even when they die they’re still trouble as they leak electricity and power up their still “living” chums. Thankfully, Reyes has a nifty tool to slow them down; a Frost Grip.
This arm-mounted device can shoot a frost bullet or spray a freezing mist to turn enemies into living statues and give you a chance to back away and shatter them into a million pieces. The Frost Grip is also useful for solving puzzles and clearing up environmental fire hazards. In the hands-on, there’s a locked door that has malfunctioned due to overheating. By cooling down three pipes connected to the door, the way opens and Dalila can move on, though delving deeper into the facility seems ill-advised. I mean, it is filled with electric zombies…
From top to bottom, Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle wears its love and reverence for Resident Evil and classic survival horror on its sleeve. Notes and files are presented nearly identically as they were when Chris and Jill first entered the mansion. The inventory feels just like it did when Leon and Claire escaped into RCPD, except it’s been refined and made more streamlined. The visuals, while modern, are absolutely a throwback to the survival horror of the 90s. Daymare: 1994’s over-the-shoulder camera angle is exactly how it should be and as someone who spent hours and hours playing Resident Evil, I can tell you, this game could easily be part of that iconic series.
Whether it has the legs, the scares, the puzzles and the story to match remain to be seen. In the hands-on, the facility seems rather empty and devoid of enemies. When a handful do attack, they’re dispatched rather easily and without much fear. Hopefully, there’s time to tune this thing and crank the horror up to 11. Puzzles in the demo are also simple but they do give a glimpse at what could be some truly heinous Resident Evil style puzzles later on. The more obtuse and bizarre the better.
After only 20-30 minutes with Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle I’m already hooked. I love those classic 90s survival horror games and this scratches an itch nobody has even thought about in a long time.
Here’s hoping Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle can live up to its inspirations.
Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle is coming to PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S in 2022.
Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle was previewed on PC using a digital code provided by the publisher.