Blaine Smith ReviewsGame ReviewsXbox Series X Reviews

Sand Land Review

With no previous exposure to the source material – but a longtime love for Bandai Namco’s anime- and manga-inspired games, I went into Sand Land with minimal expectations. And the result?

Well, it’s a mixed bag to say the least.

It’s like struggling through a barren desert, hoping to find an oasis.

Within the first couple of hours, I shared a Tweet on X calling it one of the most boring games I ever played. If it wasn’t for the fact I was writing a review, I probably would have dropped the game there and then. I’m happy I didn’t, for the most part.

The game begins as protagonist Beelzebub, the Prince of the Underworld, and his merry band of loveable misfits fight to procure water for the Demon Village. Series favorites, such as Thief and Sheriff Rao, join Beelzebub on an adventure to seek out the Legendary Spring.

An image showing the Swimmer Gang, a colorful cast of enemy characters in the game Sand Land
Sand Land features a true cast of loveable anime characters like only anime can

With an understanding and passion for the source material, there’s a meaningful and worthwhile narrative adventure here, one full of charm and heart. However, for those like myself, it’s like struggling through a barren desert, hoping to find an oasis.

And it took me about 15 hours before the exhausting, awkward translations and dialogue made way for a cast of truly memorable characters.

Without that initial struggle to find the connection with Beelzebub and friends, I’m sure fans will enjoy every moment. For those perhaps exposed to the series for the first time, it’s going to be a very hit-and-miss experience.

An image showing the devastating aftermath of an Aquanium explosion in the game Sand Land
A crater left behind by a devastating Aquanium explosion

Much can be said about many of the gameplay elements of Sand Land. There’s a lot of fun to be had, but there’s a lot of work to get there.

Combat is separated into two main components: Beelzebub’s on-foot melee combat, a system you only really use when it’s forced by the story or environment, and a far more thrilling and rewarding vehicular combat system.

an image showing one of the bigger dungeons in the game Sand Lands
The game boasts a number of expansive dungeons but they all suffer from near identical visuals

Beelzebub’s combat is well done. Basic combination attacks, special moves, and careful dodging combine to deliver a responsive and fast-paced battle system, but one that just pales in comparison to the alternative.

Would you rather stand toe-to-toe with enemy soldiers throwing well animated kicks and spins, or do you bring a tank to a gun fight?

An image showing the main character about to execute a stealth takedown in the game Sand Lands
Stealth sections, although simplistic, offer a welcome break from the games combat

The vehicular combat, as explosive and entertaining as it is, takes all too long to get started. A near seamless ability to switch vehicles during combat creates for endless combination attacks and variations of combat style, but it can take over half the game to unlock all the bots.

I share similar issues with the party and progression systems. While Beelzebub and his allies core upgrades are fast enough to obtain, the ability to truly unlock the maximum potential of the bots is locked behind a party member that joins in the final hours of the experience.

Sand Land’s vehicular combat is entertaining from start to finish

This makes the final hours of the game the very best Sand Land has to offer. An impressive customization suite boasts a huge selection of options for each of the vehicles, both mechanically and visually. However, Sand Land’s difficulty and additional content fail to motivate any real necessity to take the time to grind.

This is largely due to the unsurprisingly barren and uneventful nature of the game world. It’s a desert. It’s full of sand and, sadly, not much else.

An image showing the impressive selection of vehicular upgrades and customization options in Sand Land
Upgrading vehicles is easily the games most exciting and engaging aspect

You occasionally bump into side quests, treasure chests and characters, some of whom will be happy to return to the game’s central hub. Adding new buildings and facilities along the way, but for the most part, it’s as barren as you would expect a desert to be.

Even in later areas when, after what seems like a lifetime, you find some grass and trees, the world feels very much empty and lacking purpose.

An image showing one of Sand Lands main antagonist characters
Truly chaotic boss battles standout from otherwise unimaginative game design

Sand Land is at its very best during the humorously over-the-top boss battles. Mowing down tanks and enemy soldiers using an impressive array of vehicles and abilities. It’s just a shame that, outside the colorful cast of characters, the rest of the game can’t match the pace.

Sand Land’s vehicular combat is entertaining from start to finish, but bizarre progression pacing and the repetitive nature of the side content makes this a hard sell for those approaching the series for the first time.

Sand Land Review

Reviewed On: Xbox Series X (A digital code was provided)
Release Date: April 25th, 2024
MSRP: $59.99 / £59.99
Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, PC, PlayStation 4
Developer: ILCA
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Alternative Reviews: Player2, HeyPoorPlayer, TheGamer
Aggregate Scores: Metacritic, OpenCritic

Review Policy | Scoring Policy | Meet The Reviewer

Official Score

Overall - 60%


Sand Land's vehicular combat is entertaining from start to finish, but bizarre progression pacing and the repetitive nature of the side content makes this a hard sell for those approaching the series for the first time.

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Blaine Smith

Blaine Smith, or Smith as he prefers to be called as he doesn't have to repeat it four times before people get it, is one of the original founders of Gamers Heroes. Smith has been playing games for over 30 years, from Rex & 180 on ZX Spectrum to the latest releases on the ninth generation of consoles. RPG's are his go-to genre, with the likes of Final Fantasy, Legend of Legaia, and Elder Scrolls being among his favorites, but he'll play almost anything once (except Dark Souls). You can best reach him on Twitter

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