Review – Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle

When it was released a few years ago, the original (awfully named) Daymare was a bit of a mess. Starting off as a fan remake for Resident Evil 2, it shifted gears to its original IP after Capcom decided they wanted to do their own instead, and it paid off. Daymare, however, continued development as its own thing, and I was rooting for it, although in my review I wasn’t kind to it. The lacklustre story, frustrating gameplay, and crappy visuals lead for an experience that wasn’t pleasant to play. However, I did see the potential, so maybe Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle can redeem the franchise.


I can barely see shit.

Set four years before the events of the first game, Operation Sandcastle is in effect and a group of H.A.D.E.S. operatives have been sent to Area 51 which has gone dark, to rescue a high-value target alongside a suitcase with valuable intel. You play as Dalila Reyes, a tech specialist who must traverse through the nightmare and uncover what really happened at Area 51.

The story of Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle is incoherent nonsense. You arrive on site and there is a mysterious underground base as you’d expect, but not much of an impact really happens. Instead of trying and keep things simple, Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle overcomplicates things, and I found it hard to care. The characters aren’t particularly likeable, making it really hard to care about what is even happening.

As for the gameplay, once again this is something of a missed bag, but still, for the most, part a step up from the original game. First of all, the level design and pacing are all over the place. Whilst this is a much more consistent experience, having only one central character instead of jumping between three, they didn’t do too much with it. You’ll walk down a few hallways and there’s really not a lot of exploration. There’s the occasional off-patch that you can take, but these are usually short. Then we’ve got the backtracking which doesn’t serve a purpose, but to slow you down. It’s not a large interconnected map like Resident Evil 2‘s RCPD, but just a series of linear hallways.

Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle DalIla

Dalila is kind of like Jill… but not interesting.

This time the zombies that you will encounter have their own gimmicks. Zombies are marked with a blue energy mark. It’s a weird design decision that doesn’t quite work, especially since it doesn’t do anything interesting with these energies. When killing a zombie, a ball of energy will sometimes spawn and move to another body, and other times they don’t. Sometimes blue energy can just spawn enemies out of thin air. It doesn’t make for a satisfying gameplay experience.

There’s also the red energy type; these can only be killed if you freeze the enemy with the frost grip. By aiming down the sight and holding the space bar, you are able to blast enemies with a stream of ice, freezing them in place and allowing you to perform a finisher or shoot them uninterrupted. The gameplay loop is kind of unexpected from a survival horror game, having to use the frost grip on a regular basis, giving it a more action-oriented edge. If something more interesting was done with this idea, it might have worked, but the lack of enemy variety brings it crashing down.

It’s a shame that Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle is so unimaginative because the gameplay is actually pretty decent. It’s got all your survival horror standards: limited resources, small puzzles to solve, etc. The puzzles themselves aren’t anything special, but provide some classic Resident Evil goodness. Whilst the core gameplay mechanics are actually better, weapons feel a touch more impactful and whilst I’m not a fan of these Electrozombies didn’t really provide as much frustration as the original. Sure getting grabbed results in a tedious QTE but with the shotgun and freeze ray, it’s not a death sentence. The freeze ray was also a weird choice for a horror game, but I ended up liking how it integrated into the main combat loop.



Visuals are also a step up from the original, which just looked like a mess. Environments are much more detailed, and whilst they still aren’t great, the character models are a lot more forgiving on the eyes. The big problem here is that Daymare 1994: Sandcastle is dark, stupidly dark in fact, with areas so shrouded in darkness that it was difficult to see. This isn’t helped by the fact that the flashlight is borderline useless, and one of the worst I’ve seen in a long time. I’m all for slowing dragging my feet through the darkness, but this just makes it annoying.

Daymare 1994: Sandcastle is a step up from the original game and shows that the franchise does have the potential to grow. However, what we have here is a game that is messy; the story was laughably bad and the gameplay whilst improved, it just still isn’t there yet. Maybe with a third entry, Daymare can find its place, which I am very much hoping for.


Graphics: 6.0

The much more detailed and beliavable world is let down by some horrendous lighting.

Gameplay: 5.5

Passable survival horror gameplay let down by lacklustre enemy variety.

Sound: 5.0

Completely unremarkable sound design with mediocre voice acting.

Fun Factor: 4.5

Daymare 1994: Sandcastle is a messy game, with some interesting ideas, but tons of issues.

Final Verdict: 5.0

Daymare 1994: Sandcastle is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox Series One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on PC with an RTX 4070, Ryzen 5 3600X and 16GB RAM.

A copy of Daymare 1994: Sandcastle was provided by the publisher.