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Caravan SandWitch's post apocalypse is super breezy

Back to the futon.

A young hero sits on a tiled roof looking out across a sunny, gently rocky region by the sea.
Image credit: Studio Plane Toast/Dear Villagers

Caravan SandWitch is a game in which the qualifiers really matter. It's the post-apocalypse, but it's also gentle and dreamy and kind of lovely. You're looking for your missing sister, but in an unhurried, holidaying sort of way. The game's futuristic landscape is based on Provence, and maybe it's hard to get too serious about things in Provence. The rocks and mountains are the colour of milky coffee. The sky is endless blue. There's a jouncy little van to take you from one mission spot to the next. Hey, even "mission" is too weighty a word.

This is not a game based around urgency, in other words, and so I spent the current Steam demo dawdling cheerily and poking around in the corners of the map. The demo gives you a good chunk of coastline to play in. Alongside a little town there are cliffs and strange water processing installations built into mountain walls. There's scrabbly copses where you might find an abandoned building of some kind, and there are people, cheerful post-apocalyptic people who are feeding their babies or gathering items for a nice lunch.

My objective, not that I paid a huge amount of attention to it, was to collect technological scrap so that we could build some kind of antenna to track the location of a mayday signal we'd received. There was also a signal jammer along the coast somewhere that was blocking off an area of the map. These two things shuffled themselves together quite nicely over the next half hour, as I wandered off in my van to look for the signal jammer, and ended up finding a lot of scrap as I went.

Here's a trailer for Caravan SandWitch.Watch on YouTube

The van's lovely. That rich yellow that McDonalds uses on the Big Mac font - yolk, Taps once informed me. It's sort of futuristic looking, but only if you're really paying attention. It could be the rescue transport in some Alien film, but it could just as easily be something a handful of drop-outs have kitted out with duvets to spend a summer exploring Yosemite in. It trundles beautifully over the cream-coloured soil and it seemed almost wrong to learn that there's a button you can press to go faster. Why would I want to get anywhere faster? My sister's missing? I'm sure she's fine...

The signal jammer was located on a spar of rock suspended above calm blue waves with pearly crests. There was something of a puzzle involved in getting to it, but only gently so. The first pile of rocks I climbed only took me so far as a ladder that was suspended just out of reach. The solution was to go inland, scrabble over a few crates, work my way back to the coast and then walk out to the jammer over a thin ledge which had cabling and computer terminals slung over it. Shutting off the jammer was the work of a button press, as was powering up a device that lowered that ladder I had found. There was scrap to be had, and something that felt like plot, bound up in a figure who was at the jamming station when I arrived, but moved off as I got closer.

After that I spent far more time than I should have collecting scrap everywhere else. In that water processing plant I climbed through gaps and helped a robot who had gotten themselves stuck. In the little town I found a gorgeous hideaway home with futons and bookshelves hidden in the back of a large pipe. Further down the coast, investigation spots on the map might lead to scrap, or might lead to a cushion placed on a cliff so I could look out at the sea. At one spot I just found a radio. Nothing mission-y about it, just a radio someone had placed there so they could listen to Sailing By as the sun went down.

A young hero stands by a boulder in a copse of thin trees in this screen from Caravan SandWitch
A bright and chunky van steers through scrabbly terrain by the coast in this screen from Caravan SandWitch
A young hero stares up at a narrow installation on top of a ledge of creamy coastal rock in this screen from Caravan SandWitch
Caravan SandWitch. | Image credit: Studio Plane Toast/Dear Villagers

The back end of the demo prepares players for a lengthy jaunt across this world's desert. You learn how to search for scrap and other items using a radar mounted on the van, and there are clues to the puzzley nature of the defiantly non-violent adventure you're about to embark on. It's a mark of this demo's sweetness and beauty that I have reached this point three times now, each time hoping that something will glitch and the demo will break and let me play the rest of the game.

It's fitting, I think, that I first saw Caravan SandWitch on TikTok, its trailer slotted in alongside vanlife videos and people hiking the Pacific Crest Trail - day 19 and I'm finally in Palm Springs! There's adventure here, I'm sure of it, and someone's got to see what's up with the missing sister. But let's take it easy as we go, right? Let's enjoy the view, the rattling van, and this soothing take on the end of the world.

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