As game development tools become more accessible, we get to see more studios take on genres that were once dominated by large studios. The horror space has evolved considerably thanks to these studios, which is how we get games such as Daymare 1994 Sandcastle, a follow-up to 2019’s Daymare: 1998. Heavily inspired by Resident Evil 2 Remake, you can see the DNA of these efforts in the early moments of gameplay. Thankfully, there are some unique elements to keep the tension feeling fresh.
From an early build of Daymare 1994 Sandcastle, I found one of the most interesting tools to be the Freeze gauntlet, which can either lob a freezing blast or a steady stream of ice. Using this, you can affect your surroundings by extinguishing fires or freezing enemies. In addition, this tool creates an exciting dynamic in combat as you can save ammo by using this slowly recharging resource instead of bullets.
Enemies also utilize elemental attacks such as electric charges that they can pass to others. Once the electric charge passes, an enemy is tougher to take down. There is potential to force players to choose how many enemies they kill, especially when facing off against hordes.
However, there were a few moments of frustration caused by how spongy enemies can be if you don’t get headshots in. Still, it’s a known fact that dead things can only die from headshots, so save your time and don’t even try to shoot the bodies. Further, it’s possible to freeze enemies which can mitigate the issue.
Once frozen, any foe becomes brittle to the point that a single blast from my shotgun was enough to kill them. I managed to kill a group of enemies using only five shells and half a charge of my gauntlet. It felt great to trivialize the encounter completely, but there needs to be some balance.
The Freeze gauntlet is a unique mechanic that makes encounters feel unique. The combat implementations are exemplary, but many puzzles come from the environmental effects. There was already a tiny taste of it in the demo, but I hope to see the idea expanded on in the full release.
Daymare 1994 Sandcastle is far from perfect, but there is enough to stand out in the genre. I’d like to see tweaks to enemy health and durability, as well as incorporating the freeze gauntlet, which will go a long way for the full release. Before playing this demo, I had never heard of Daymare, but now I am excited to see where this franchise could be heading.
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