GIVE ME WATER
There comes a day in every person’s life when they play a game that shows them the meaning of the cosmos. This is that game.
熱砂の惑星 aka literally Boiling Sand Planet aka Desert Planet is a unique and completely ridiculous game. When buying it I was expecting the usual derp, the usual gold. However, I got much, much more than I was hoping for from it. I played it with an hombre and we finished it in one sitting, taking about 4+ hours. We couldn’t get enough. What kind of magical game is this?! Well read on, if you dare.
The story takes place on a (obviously) desert planet with lots of Star Warsy vibes with the music and stuff. The main character and his mom, both Earthlings, live in a hut in the desert. One day his mom isn’t feeling well, so he goes out to get some water.
And that’s the story. Like, the dialogue was essentially, without exaggeration:
“You don’t look so well.”
“Ah, water. I’ll go get some, be right back.” Leaves the house in search of some water.
As he goes in search of a drink of water he must traverse the landscape of the Desert Planet. This is done in first person, walking down linear lanes like in many PS1 adventure games (similar to the award-winning Dracula Detective or the lesser-quality early Persona games). You can talk to a few people and search deadends for items. The characters you most often bump into are some weird lady in a cloak that gives you hints (what is she doing out here?) and various super chill statue men that give you heals. They are just brown rock/clay dudes that sit on a box looking chill as hell and they seem to be everywhere. Evil alien base? Rock dude chillin’. However, it’s not all friendlies in this world. As the main character searches for water he encounters various humanoid aliens and has to fight them in a fist fight to the death. A random encounter occurs while walking where the alien and character lock eyes and then they begin their duel, with the main character shouting only one thing: 「水はどこだ？！」 “Where’s some water?!” How the main character beats these bystander aliens to death in his hectic search for a glass of water is part of what makes this game so fun: it’s a 2D fighter.
I’LL FUCKIN’ WRECK YOU
The battles take place with the 3D models on a 2D plane, similar to Street Fighter IV. It also follows very similar input commands to Street Fighter, with shoryuken and hadoken motions abounds. Square is punch, triangle kick, circle rush, and x is to block. Input commands plus either punch or kick results in many special moves, including a Guile-esque flash kick. The circle button starts a rush where if you mash out punches or kicks or the circle button (not a combination of them, though) the character will do a flurry of moves that finishes in either a badass punch that knocks the punk-ass alien across the stage, a knock down, or a punch into the air where the enemy can then be juggled (preferably with an axe kick or smashed into the dirt like garbage with a Wesker-style axe kick). A grab also exists for enemies that block too much, which is a simple judo flip.
The fights, especially early on, are both very silly and hilariously real. You and the enemy inch towards and away from eachother like a real fight, takin’ in shots and staying away from the enemy’s range. There is a dash back and forward as well to move quicker. The fight is very often you and the alien sizing eachother up before finally somebody making a move, which is when knuckles wreck face. Any given fight (except for the especially easy enemy, as pictured above) can often be a complete dominance or total disaster on your end, with the enemy throwin the MC down into the ground for good and he lays straight out like a plank of wood. The fights are pretty intense, but in such a goofy way. Each enemy type has different moves and fighting styles which really makes you learn to be wary of certain foes. One enemy, SMASHER, who is a Shark in a Suit, I fought in Chapter 3 and it took me like 10 Game Overs to finally take him down. God damn Smasher. Then next thing I know, I’m fighting nothing but Smashers in like Chapter 6 or 7 and the new dangerous foe is some asshole with wings. When a fight is won, things freeze and a bunch of camera angles shoot by dramatically before the enemy finally falls. It’s best to use the Flash Kick to finish fights, as a camera angle always zooms in on the main characters straight tool face as he’s in mid-backflip.
Every day is a new struggle on this hell planet…
Besides aliens and the main character constantly brawling for their lives using their fists, there are also some RPG elements. Equipment can be found off some defeated enemies which boost the main character’s defense or attack. His HP can also be raised by finding certain items and by just progressing through the game (I suspect there is an hidden underlying level-up system involved). So enemies that gave some trouble previously can get rocked pretty easily as you power up from stealing gear off dead alien corpses.
Eventually, you find the water: there’s a fountain in a temple like 1km from the house you start in. Dude just chills in (other aliens are just chillin’ there also), fills his water bottle up and goes back to his house, where his mother has been kidnapped! Now he sets out to find her, replacing “where’s some water?!” to “where’s my mother?!” as he beats every alien passerby to death. But why has his mother been kidnapped? Because some aliens just can’t forgive him for stealing that water. The main character becomes known by others from then on as the water thief. The hell is with these guys and water?! The entire story revolves around this dude takin’ a drink from a fountain. You eventually have to fight various alien gangs until you reach the Boss of the Water. At around this point of the game I had discovered a decently reliable set-up and high-damaging combo to win fights pretty easily. Still, some enemies were pretty tricky making me never feel truly in control. Anyway, apparently the Water Lord is controlling the rationing of the water, despite it being overflowing out of a fountain. This entire game is about god damn water. You beat him and then declare that the water will be available for all to drink, earning the cheers of aliens everywhere. Hurrah.
The direness of a single bit of water and the constant fighting has painted the reality of this world: in order to just get a jug of water from a fountain a few blocks away, all sorts of aliens battle eachother to the death using their bare hands. Opponent after opponent, kill after kill, until they get the water or die trying. The strongest survive by scrounging up old gear to put on themselves. One good defense item I ripped off a corpse was a cup. A cup to protect my crotch. Those without a cup felt the wrath of kicks to the grapes. I was superior. Those who amass enough gear can make it to the top, but even then it’s an endless wave of fists they must endure in order to get a taste of Sweet Lady Blue. Then when they reach the fountain, everyone just chills around it. No fists are thrown in the presence of The Drink. Then you go home, drink your water, enjoy the basic necessity to survive until tomorrow.
Then you wake up and do it all over again. Every day is a struggle of life and death in order to get a drink of water. In this game the player gets a taste of just another one of those days. On Desert Planet you either quench your basic thirsts, both fists and soul bloodied and bruised from ending so many other thirsty warriors’ lives, or find yourself laying facefirst in the sand.
Arcade Edition Coming This Fall