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Posted on Feb 15th 2015 at 02:00:00 AM by (Fleach)
Posted under Review, Indie, PC, Sandstorm, Daniel Linssen, Downloadable, Short, Atmospheric, Experience

Source: Sandstorm's itch.io page

The sun heads west and the world spins as you make your journey through the desert to Mount Distant.

Sandstorm is a small game for the PC developed by Daniel Linssen with a simple premise. You play a wandering traveler on his pilgrimage to Mount Distant. Nothing is known of your destination, just that you must arrive safely and brave the treacherous sandstorm that obscures your vision.



The immediate response by many is to draw comparisons to thatgamecompany's Journey. After all, the aesthetic and objective are nearly identical, but where Sandstorm differs is in its emphasis on not getting lost. With limited visibility and a constantly rotating environment, this is easier said than done. The traveler is equipped with enough supplies to successfully complete his pilgrimage; at your disposal are flags to mark your tracks, a compass, and a camel drawn cart. However, at the start of each new day, one or more of your items can go missing and you cannot progress if you can't retrieve these lost items. Instead, you end up meandering the barren landscape hopelessly and becoming another of the desert's many secrets. Your punishment isn't that severe, since you can restart your game and try again in hopes your camel hasn't strayed too far away.


The desert itself becomes a character in Sandstorm. It holds secrets for you to uncover: the remains of ruined carts from past pilgrims dot the landscape, withered trees stand alone in the sand, and mysterious relics are scattered throughout. What makes this experience so memorable is that the game encourages the player to use his or her imagination to piece together the desert's past. Who made this journey before you? Who took your compass? And, what's waiting for you at Mount Distant?

It's amazing that a game that lasts anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour can evoke such questions and curiosity. The game is a simple go from point A to point B, side scroller, but because nothing is made clear, the mystery becomes more interesting than the game mechanics.


Sandstorm excels at accomplishing so much with so little. The barren environment gives no pleasure to the eye, but it's not supposed to. It conveys the desolation and confusion that is felt when traversing an empty landscape. It's pixel art that while exceptionally well done, is equally minimal. Often times you can only make out the silhouette of the pilgrim, and the shriveled up plant life is usually represented by only a few wavy lines. But this is the reason that Sandstorm is so memorable; it's a meditative experience that depicts the confusion, frustration, and wonder of crossing the desert at the foot of a sacred mountain. Your purpose is unknown and you have to make sense of your surroundings. Maybe this game is one of the best metaphors for the journey of life. I guess it's not so different from Journey after all.

Sandstorm is currently available for only $3!


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Comments
 
Man, that sounds interesting.  Is it available for the 360?
 
this looks really cool.
 
@shaggy: It's only available on PC, but if you look up the Youtube channel for Marshall Dyer he has a great playthrough of the game.
 
This looks like a great game for me to spend a couple of hours with, and at $3 this is hard to argue with.  I briefly watched a video on this and had a laugh at the camel wandering off when you sleep, and got pretty disoriented with the camera shifting.  Great mechanic, I think.  Also, I really like well done minimalist graphics.

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