Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle - PS5 Review

Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle by developer Invader Studios and publisher Leonardo InteractiveSony PlayStation 5 review written by Pierre-Yves with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes.

Taking a step backwards through time from the zombie apocalypse of Daymare 1998, Daymare 1994: Sandcastle brings about its own level of insanity. Sent out to the mysterious Area 51 in order to retrieve "something", it doesn't take long for everything to go sideways as mysterious monsters start appearing out of nowhere trying to kill you as you take on the role of Delila Reyes.

When I originally sat down to Sandcastle for a first look, the slick controls and the visuals off my PC in ultra wide let me know I was in for a good time. So it was a little shocking to me that the PS5, a super powerful console, didn't look as good with its 4K until I dropped it down to performance mode. Even then? Cutscenes were hit and miss visually with glitches in the character models and other elements in the background.

The overall controls however were decent and allowed for some responsive actions which is good because you're going to need it. Unfortunately for Reyes, EVERYTHING moves faster than she does. While at first I felt like it was perhaps a mistake in the design, I soon came to realize that you're supposed to be slower than these monsters appearing from thin air. The difference between you and them though is that you're supposed to be smarter. Or at least more cunning. 

What I appreciated, and this was from start to finish, is that Reyes only had three weapons. A submachine gun. A shotgun. And a H.A.D.E.S. special tech liquid nitrogen launcher with tons of neat toys. Starting off with a frost spray and bullet, it doesn't take long to get mines, a shield and a frost bomb to really lay it out to the monsters. It never gets more complicated than this and honestly? Once you know how to use them all in tandem, you don't need some fifty odd weapons clogging up your inventory space. I also really appreciated not getting stuck with a useless pistol like so many others in the genres do.

So it's with this gear that you are meant to survive your way through Area 51 and its many tight corridors as well as open spaces. In these spaces though, you're never truly safe. There's always an edge as to whether you're going to be attacked or not, and if you are? How bad is that encounter going to be?

Like Reyes' weapons, enemies are also kept to a minimum and come in three flavors. Your basic mindless runners. Your spitters. And then the absolute worst things ever. EVER! Maybe that's a tad dramatic but UHG. The last type is a flying grotesque creature straight out of H.P. Lovecraft and if it touches you? Dead. Doesn't matter how much health you have. Dead. There is no safety to these making them very infuriating especially when more than one comes out to play. Because you’re most likely going to be dead.

These absolute horrors to my existence aside, you may be wondering. Three enemy types? That's it? Yup. However, you won't have the time to really complain about only three as there are other mechanics in play which can become an absolute nightmare of their own.

"Basic" enemies can be seen glowing with blue electricity. These enemies can be frozen and shattered, taking them out of the equation, or, if you have enough ammo, blown apart with either your shotgun or a portion of your SMG's clip. When they "die" a glowing orb of electricity will float upwards signaling that it's ready to infect another corpse. If it does, it's coming right back at you until there are no bodies left in the vicinity. Taking these floating orbs out with your ice abilities will save you a lot of issues especially when dealing with a crowd.

"Advanced" enemies are enemies glowing with red electricity and are essentially immortal by Highlander standards. No amount of shotgun blasts or SMG rounds will take them out. You in these cases absolutely need your ice weapons to freeze them solid before opening fire or using your fist to break them apart. There are thankfully a lot less of these, and like the blue ones, if you don't take out the floating orb, you'll have to face another one. Oh, and one final tiny detail… if you don't take out the blue orbs fast enough, and it will happen, they can possess another current enemy instead of a corpse turning them into an immortal. Fun times!

This combination works to keep the types of enemies down and keep the overall combat somewhat reasonable as you generally know what to expect enemy wise. What will add to your stress however is the amount of enemies that can show up at the same time. It will honestly make you wonder how sadistic the developers really wanted to be… but once you really get rolling and understand how to approach each situation, it’s really not that bad. Well it isn’t that bad unless you’ve died more times than you would have to a Dark Souls boss…

Unfortunately, Daymare 1994: Sandcastle isn’t without its performance issues on the PS5. I already stated some issues above, but they weren't the only ones. While load times were decent, the checkpoint system in-between save points was either decent or was taking a page out of Demon's Souls where you had to run the whole damned level EVERY TIME YOU DIED TO THE ONE SHOT HORRORS. I'm not mad. I swear. Sometimes some of the controls would work as intended, such as being able to perform a 180 turn, while other times your character would simply take a step or two at moments that would have really counted. Such as, the instant death enemies.

Gameplay issues aside, I often found myself having an issue with the story. Do not get me wrong. I absolutely love a campy B grade horror show. I don’t do actual horror, but B level horror? All in. There’s often a great balance between something that could be scary and then the ridiculously that takes the edge off of it. Sandcastle starts our campy but then actually takes itself more seriously about halfway through. This would have been fine as there would have been this shift in gears and I could have been ok with that. But then it drops right back into campy and the “magic” felt broken so to speak.

While I would have liked to score Daymare 1994: Sandcastle higher, there are currently simply too many performance issues with the PS5 version. I do hope to see some of those fixed as there is some solid gameplay to be found once you get your actual footing and realize how you’re supposed to play. Overall though, I can say I mostly enjoyed my time with Sandcastle and hope to see another entry into the series.

Score 6.75 / 10



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