When you're lost in a trackless desert waste, everywhere looks pretty much like everywhere else — and may as well be, for all that it matters. You'll need to not only get through a fierce Sandstorm, but also get yourself, your beast of burden and your creaky cart to a distant mountain you can't even see in order to complete your pilgrimmage. And this adventure by Daniel Linssen does a phenomenal job of recreating a wild sandstorm: gritty siroccos and mirages obscure the outer bounds of your view, and the whole landscape veers and wends arbitrarily as you move, providing an uncannily accurate depiction of just how disorienting a landscape can be when you can't find a single point of reference with which to get your bearings. Fortunately you've got a compass by which to orient, and a disc that shows you how much of the day has passed. Provided you can keep them. As the day progresses everything will eventually grow dim and narcolepsy hits you suddenly, with daybreak snapping on just as abruptly, and it's then that you'll find that your camel has invariably wandered off and any number of your tools have become scattered in the wind. They're out there somewhere and you'll need to find them, but if you stray too far you'll never find your way back to the wagon! Retracing your footsteps is an option, but they will become sandblown before too long. You have a meager supply of guide markers you can place and retrieve in order to find your way back, and you'll need to retrieve your camel and any strewn tools if you're to continue your quest effectively. Finding notes will also allow you to understand more about the area, and unlock a plethora of new game options as well.
Trudge the dunes using the [arrow keys], and [Z] will do everything else — place and remove guide markers, nab items, read notes, collect your camel, fasten it to your ricketty wagon, and even embark. The whole map is one large continuous area, rather than individual levels for each day. The game is full of secrets to find, and even just using your tools effectively will require some careful observation and thought. The passage of time increases drastically when you're using your wagon. Sandstorm is a tale of man versus the elements — it could be any desert location, and even the centuries in the dates of all the letters have been left out. Players may appreciate Sandstorm on a deeper level if they're aware that "wandering aimlessly in the desert" is a major Christian metaphor for an individual or a people who have lost their way morally and spiritually, although the developer has also managed to depict the exact scenario that invariably comes to my mind whenever any of my friends suggest a "road trip!". Daniel Linsson has demonstrated great skill with intense and innovative visual design and puts it to good use, both here and in his previous game bird song. Sandstorm has hours of replay value, both since there's plenty to discover and unlock and because not every attempted pilgrimmage you make will end in success. It's quite difficult, which is a lot of why it's so much fun to try to make it, and even tougher and more rewarding difficulty levels become available after your first success. The presentation is well-polished, with little flourishes like the way the menu cards move, or how your amulets shift in the heads-up display whenever you switch directions. The handling isn't only refreshingly tight, you actually move faster or more slowly as if you're navigating unsteady sand and traversing dunes. And you can do it all to a soothing, gentle, disconsolate soundtrack — which is exactly what you want when getting thoroughly lost in a barren desert waste. Enjoy.
Get the full version (Pay What You Want)