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Thursday, June 27, 2024

Sand Land

An open-world game based on a somewhat obscure Akira Toriyama manga, Sand Land tells a post-apocalyptic tale set in an expansive desert overrun by dangerous fauna and under an oppressive military rule helmed by a despotic king.  Starring the demon Beelzebub and his companions Thief, Ann and Rao, they seek a mystic spring that could free the world from the military's grasp.  They're a pretty fun crew to hang with and their banter is pretty amusing, although you end up hearing the same handful of conversations a lot if you spend any amount of time wandering in search of treasure.  While there is hand-to-hand combat and dungeon exploration to a degree, the main draw of the gameplay is the vehicles - from two-legged jumper mechs to tanks to cars to motorcycles to battle mecha, you get quite a variety, and all can be customized with different paint jobs, weapon loadouts, armor and "chips" that grant small bonuses like quicker reload times or longer-lasting incendiary damage.  Using these, you follow the main story missions as well as a number of side objectives like bounty hunts, treasure hunting (with only some vehicles able to surmount certain obstacles), repairing radio towers and even racing events, with a larger overarching quest involving recruiting people to rebuild a struggling town and add more amenities to it. Toriyama's quirky sense of humor and imaginative designs once again prove a major highlight of the experience, lending an irreverent charm to the game and its characters, and I'm always impressed by how well his style translates to 3D.  Sand Land isn't a particularly deep game (and doesn't pretend to be either, unlike many pretty-but-shallow modern gaming experiences), but it is a fun one if you just want to spend a few hours driving around, blowing up critters and bandits and customizing your steadily-growing fleet of vehicles, although it hits the point of diminishing returns well before its story ends. Give the DLC (and the Digital Deluxe and physical Collector's Editions) a pass though, as they don't really provide anything substantive for the extra cost.

Developer: ICLA
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Released: 2024
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Playstation 5, XBox Series