Daymare 1994: Sandcastle Hands-On Preview: Free Screams Freeze Beams

Daymare 1998 was a bit of a strange situation, yeah? Originally envisioned as an Unreal Engine remake of Resident Evil 2, it was coming along nicely until the folks at Capcom told the dev team to stop, because they were making their own remake of Resident Evil 2. Not wanting to see their work go to waste, the team pivoted into turning their Resident Evil Remake into a full-fledged single player experience in their own new universe. The results were polarizing but popular enough to warrant another go-round with the world and characters they had created. Enter Daymare:1994: Sandcastle.

I recently got my hands on a hands-on demo, and I have to say, things have certainly changed since the original Daymare. With the focus from the beginning being a game not based on Resident Evil, the dev team at Invader studio have a lot of freedom to get kind of weird with it. This is apparent within the first few minutes of the new Daymare: 1994: Sandcastle demo. You play as Dalila Reyes. Separated from her team, and being hunted by all manner of creatures, you need to move through an abandoned factory to get back to your team. Right off the bat, the visuals are impressive. The Invader Studios team has definitely put in some time with Unreal and learned to tease out some fantastic models and environments.

You start the demo with a shotgun, submachine gun, a scanner, and a freeze gauntlet. One of those things isn’t like the others, one of those things just doesn’t fit. It’s the freeze gauntlet. The creatures in Daymare: 1994: Sandcastle are some type of interdimensional nude goblins, and sometimes you gotta freeze them in place. A neat system has been added where the bio-electric impulses that power the monsters can be transferred upon death, to buff up nearby living monsters. With a big enough group of enemies, this can result in an enemy becoming bulletproof. This is not ideal. But, this is where the freeze gauntlet comes in. I believe the actual name given in the game is “frost grip” but I prefer freeze gauntlet.

When an enemy gets too powerful to shoot, then you need to freeze them. The freeze gauntlet can fire a concentrated mass of freeze, or be sprayed like a fire extinguisher. It serves double duty as being a combat weapon, and a means to traverse the world of Daymare: 1994: Sandcastle by putting out environmental fires, or in one case in the demo, cooling down some overheated pipes controlling a giant door. At first, I thought it was kind of extra, not really needed. When I was getting swarmed by monsters, and my ammo count was getting low, I found myself relying more and more on the freeze gauntlet. Enemies can be frozen and then shattered, with either bullets or approaching them and pressing the appropriate button for a finishing move. It varies up the combat a bit. In this early state, the combat feels a bit floaty, so having a crowd control option is nice.

I’ll level with you. Control-wise, it’s a huge step up from the original Daymare. It feels on par with the Resident Evil 2 or 3 remakes. Fans of those games will be instantly comfortable with what’s on offer in Daymare: 1994: Sandcastle. I respect a dev team that isn’t afraid to use what obviously worked in a similar game. Seeing as how they were the first to come up with a Resident Evil 2 remake, it has become unclear who took inspiration from whom. The inventory system, the movement, the feel of combat, it all feels very RE2/3 Remake, and I dig that.

The demo itself isn’t exactly comprehensive, and after shooting down some enemies and solving a couple of simple puzzles, the demo was suddenly over. It did the job a demo should do: I’m excited to see the rest of the game. It can be wishlisted now, with a release date somewhere in 2022. I can’t wait to see the rest of Dalila’s story. You can wishlist it yourself HERE.