‘Sand Land’ review: a charming adaptation of Akira Toriyama’s legendary manga

A fiendish prince and his found family become heroes on a post-apocalyptic adventure that lacks challenge

Sand Land, true to its name, is set in a world that’s absolutely covered in sand. It’s an action game with third-person fighting, a little bit of stealth, and a lot of vehicles – but mostly, it’s deserts upon deserts. Despite that, each post-apocalyptic region stands out thanks to a mix of different geographical features: think oceans of quicksand, massive (and sometimes climbable) cliffs, and huge cities.

There’s a lot of hype around Sand Land. For starters, it’s an adaptation of a manga series that’s over two decades old, but more importantly, there are those who believe it’s Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama’s best work. People would be excited for it anyway, but with the passing of the legendary writer and artist at the beginning of March, it feels like fans need a hug.

We could spend this entire review praising Toriyama’s legacy, but we’ll restrain ourselves to focus on Beelzebub and his gang, who are the main characters of Sand Land. Beelzebub is a demon prince, the son of Lucifer himself, and sits around trying to earn time on a games console by being good (or whatever constitutes good for a demon). On a day much like any other, a man called Rao turns up and says he can help this dried-out husk of a world by finding the Legendary Spring of water, and that he wants the demons to help. One mild case of emotional blackmail later, and Beelzebub’s trusted friend Thief joins the prince and Rao on a journey to save Sand Land.

Sand Land. Credit: Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc.
Sand Land. Credit: Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc.


After several hours of start-up and stealing, you’ll hop between vehicles to ride across a huge world, trying to right some wrongs, fixing a dying village, and generally being a bunch of good dudes in a dark, very sandy world. It’s a classic tale, one that we’ve all heard plenty of times before, and while there are some fun twists and turns, it’s really held aloft by the camaraderie between Beelzebub, Thief, Rao, and later on, Ann, a gifted mechanic with a few secrets. The characters are brimming with good vibes, and even though half the party is riddled with trauma, they all mesh wonderfully as you drive around pew-pewing at things. It’ll bring a smile to even the coldest of hearts.

As for how that journey plays, it’s mostly vehicular. There are some sections where you’re running around and fighting as Beelzebub, mixing in light and heavy attacks and the odd dodge, and those feel good for the most part, but this is a game for gearheads. You start off in a tank, but eventually unlock a plethora of different vehicles which can be customised with new weapons, engines, and special abilities. Our favourite two are the Jumper, a little one-person mech that’s good at jumping, and the motorbike for zooming around open-world sections as fast as possible.

One thing that Sand Land does particularly well is include some excellent quality-of-life choices for the vehicles themselves. The biggest of these is that you can switch between vehicles while already driving one, and that’s true even in the midst of combat. So, if you’re fighting a giant scorpion that has more mobility than you were expecting, switching from the tank to the Jumper is a breeze. Also (and this is something all games should do) the boost of each vehicle is infinite as long as you’re not in combat, so you never feel like you’re being punished for being in a hurry.


Sand Land. Credit: Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc.
Sand Land. Credit: Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc.

There are a fair few things to do in the world itself, including hunting monsters for new vehicle parts, side quests to help people and grow the run-down village of Spino, and little caves to loot. Yet the main draw is the story. The plot constantly pulls you forward by drip-feeding you mysteries, while the characters ooze charm that makes them impossible to ignore. You can go off the beaten path if you want, and while some of the side quests you stumble upon make that worth it – particularly one where you help a blind girl find out who’s been secretly bringing her flowers – it’s not essential.

If you do just follow the main quest, there are a couple of slower missions in there, but the pace is still incredibly satisfying. You’re always working towards something in a meaningful way, and the only time things slow down is when something big is about to happen in terms of character development.

It feels like playing through the manga itself, and its atmosphere is so intensely hopeful that it’s hard not to get swept up in it. Add in the great voice work, the anime-infused graphics, and the soundtrack, which includes different instrumentals for exploration, battles, and different regions, and you’ve got a game that feels like a nice homemade meal.


That being said, Sand Land isn’t the best game ever. The hand-to-hand combat never really feels like it moves beyond button mashing outside of a couple of boss fights, the difficulty of the combat is very low no matter what difficulty level you’re playing on, and there could definitely be more options for customisation for the vehicles – although none of these things ruin the story itself.

Ultimately, Sand Land is a deeply comforting game in its execution and its story-telling. The characters are immensely lovable, and most importantly, it’s a lot of fun to play. Sometimes, that’s all you really need.

Sand Land launches on April 25 for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X|S. We played on PC.


Sand Land isn’t aiming to rewrite the rule book, but it has oodles of heart and character, a lovely world to explore, and plenty to keep you engaged. It’s just good old-fashioned fun.


  • Incredible characters and story
  • Excellent quality of life choices for vehicles


  • Combat can be a little too easy
  • It doesn’t always feel like you need to explore anything

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