If I was to run a poll on the most cliched genre across all media platforms, I’d put money on Zombie Horror coming out on top. There is always; the deadly virus that started the threat, the top secret undercover government agency who saves the day, a quaint town that is adversely affected, and finally a number of twists and turns that normally end up in the loss of a much loved character. When I look specifically at the gaming industry, Resident Evil comes out as the biggest name in this category. It never surprises me when other developers want to use this as a platform for their own zombie experience. DAYMARE: 1998 by developers Invader Studios pays homage to Capcom’s fantastic franchise. When I first started the game I noted that it felt quite dated, this instantly got me thinking; Is there room for a title that feels like its from the 90’s? Has the gaming community moved on? Do they expect more especially after Resident Evil 2 and 3 have been given a remake quite recently?
The story starts with a specialist squad from the H.A.D.E.S department being requested to help with a lockdown, a top secret military weapon has leaked, and caused everyone in the facility to become infected. They are no longer human beings, they are merely shadows of their former selves, hell bent on killing anyone that they come across. You must extract the mysterious containers and return them to your base. Like all good horror games the simple plan never works, a betrayal amongst the team during the flight ensures that the previously secured package is unleashed on an unsuspecting community. I know what you’re thinking, a deadly virus that alters people into nightmarish zombies, a super secret government agency tasked with saving the day, and finally a town inflicted with guaranteed death due to an unforeseeable accident, how very Resident Evil. It certainly does keep the key elements at the heart of everything it does, however, it does have a few subtitle game play mechanics that I feel Capcom should have implemented, we shall delve into them a bit later on.
This third person shooter gives you the opportunity to play as 1 of 3 different characters; Liev a cocksure trigger happy nut case who is an operative for H.A.D.E.S, Raven, who is the nervous, but extremely talented pilot of the H.A.D.E.S helicopter that crashes during the flight, and finally Sam the Forest Ranger. Each of the protagonists has their own unique strengths and weaknesses, they also have their own specific inventory and arsenal. Loadout management is a key element to the game, so it quickly becomes important to be aware of what each of the characters has, and how you feel you want to best utilise them. Separate characters will pass through the same regions as one another, you will find that the environment causes different obstacles for each player, and due to the differing viewpoints, the areas will look fresh, and won’t feel repetitive. The loadout game mechanic was something I loved and I loathed in nearly equal measures. It is made clear to you at the start that there is not enough ammo to take out every groaning husk that limps your way, so some planning is required. Do you kill all zombies that come across your path, but then find that you are short of bullets for that all important boss? Or do you run and melee attack your way to survival, ensuring in the process that your gun never runs dry? The choice is yours, but you soon learn that evasion is as wise as attacking.
As you explore the world around you, you will find that there are a number of different medical items. These can be used directly for a number of positive effects, but can also be combined to make a super cocktail that’ll have you risking an overdose. You are free to experiment with the combination of drugs, but due to the limited supply mechanic, I was always conscious that I didn’t want to waste anything, so I pretty much played it safe. DAYMARE takes the survival aspect quite seriously, you have an extremely limited inventory, and when it is full you’ll be left making some very tough decisions. To help to control your storage, observe your stats, and view your map, you are provided with a wrist mounted D.I.D. The D.I.D gives you 4 screens to keep track of this information. This was a nice little feature, not only did it make managing your resources simpler, it also kept the User Interface a lot cleaner, which in turn made playing the game a whole lot easier.
Unlike a lot of titles in this genre, DAYMARE has a number of elements that make it more than just a hack and slash zombie shooter. Numerous puzzles can be found enroute through each chapter. These won’t challenge you too much, it was just nice to have an additional challenge that required you to be aware of the world around you, and the clues that you had collected. You will find electrically locked doors, behind them unknown and valuable treasures, so it’s important that you can break into these rooms. In order to do so, you are provided with a limited number of overriding wires. As you attempt to hack the lock you must complete a mini game, with a small amount of practise you will succeed. These little twists on gameplay made this title stand out from others. It certainly kept you on your toes, making sure you didn’t rush through any rooms, as you don’t want to miss any important information.
Whenever I look at all things zombie, I’m intrigued to see how the developers will design their characteristics, the choices are vast; from Day of the Dead slow brain munchers, to 28 Days Later screaming fast paced power houses, and anything in between. Invader Studios has implemented both styles, the standard monsters slowly move around each stage, gently moaning. They burst into life as you approach, at this point you must decide, fight or flight. The big bosses really do impose a challenge; clear planning, a great inventory, and a thick slice of luck is required to win. The final boss is a prime example of this. Without giving anything away, you will have to adjust your play style to overcome this bulging hulk. Frustration is guaranteed against all the final enemies, the developers have deliberately made the environment challenging, and success is reliant as much on your own skill, as your understanding of how to manipulate your surroundings to your advantage.
DAYMARE is a massive nod to 90’s gaming, as such, the graphics and cinematic represents this influence. You won’t find a highly polished finish, the cutscenes are cheesy and cliched, the zombies are reminiscent of those found in Resident Evil in both look and feel. The level designs are dark and eerie, and they help to build the horror atmosphere nicely. The colour palette used is heavy and dark, you will require your torch to help search each area, without it you will be left fumbling around, and will be the perfect target for all the awaiting undead. The outdated graphics are not going to be to everyone’s liking, but Invader Studios have purposefully created this style, so for me it was acceptable, and worked well. The cinematic character models made me chuckle, there was a number of times where the audio didn’t match the images. Though it was slightly janky it didn’t put me off watching, it was just another one of those glitches that added to the charm.
The audio is both excellent and poor, allow me to elaborate. The cutscenes dialogue is so badly acted that it makes ham actors look like Oscar winners, at times I was unable to follow the dialogue as I was laughing so much. What was great was the atmospheric sound effects. The echoes of your footsteps as you ran across metal surfaces, the dripping of water hitting the floor, the low groans of your enemies waiting to rip your face off. It all worked so well, the explosions were dramatic, and sounded realistic. I enjoyed the bludgeoning sound of the melee attack, it made me wince a number of times, it just sounded so brutal.
With so much of the action taking place in such a short space of time, you will be glad that the button mapping is simple. The basic tutorial allows you to understand how to control your character, as you progress you are given on screen instructions on how to combine your meds, and how to use your D.I.D. Luckily, all of the inputs are quick to respond, so as long as you stay alert you shouldn’t be caught out by the quick moving zombies.
With several different difficulty options, and a long list of achievements, DAYMARE will give the player an opportunity to return to the action once you have completed the game. Fans of the genre will happily replay this without issue, with limited ammo being an influencing factor, you will find that you will miss a number of things on each playthrough, so multiple attempts are likely to be required. For me, one attempt was enough, I think I’m all zombied out at the moment, another run through would probably be a bit overkill.
Outdated graphics, and laughable acting should not put you off wanting to try this title. DAYMARE perfectly represents gaming from another era. If the developers had not taken their own twist on the genre, then they would have easily been accused of rehashing a much loved franchise. The use of the D.I.D, survival elements, and locked secret doors will have you exploring further than just the zombies in front of you. The audio and lighting make this a beautifully atmospheric experience, so put aside your requirements for polished updated graphics and perfect acting, and manage your inventory to see if you can survive this apocalypse.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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DAYMARE: 1998 Review
Gameplay - 7/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 8/10
Replay Value - 7/10
90’s gaming and a zombie apocalypse in a nutshell! Can you survive this nightmarish hell? Can H.A.D.E.S save the day, or make the situation worse? Why not jump in and see for yourself.
Sound effects are atmospheric.
Graphic’s represent 90’s gaming perfection.
D.I.D is a unique and interesting game mechanic.
Feels like Resident Evil with a twist.
Poor voice-over acting during cutscenes.
The bosses can be very annoying and frustrating.