Do you ever wish that you could move out of town, or even better, move to another planet and find a better life for yourself? Do you want to make thousands of dollars racing, delivering pizza, and hacking into systems? Then Desert Child may be for you.
Desert Child, developed by Oscar Brittain, is a racing RPG with only one goal in mind: Win the Grand Prix. You play as a young man stuck on a desolate Earth, looking for a way out when you find out about the Mars Grand Prix. The only problem? You need money.
In order to get to Mars, you need to race to earn $500. As soon as you get that, congratulations! You’ve finally made it to Mars. However, it’s not an easy road from there, as you need to earn $10,000 to enter.
How Does It Work?
Whilst you’re on Earth, you only have two ways of earning money: by selling power cells that you collect during races, and the racing itself.
The way it works is through a left-to-right system rather than a forward-backward scheme. Moving left to right, your aim during races is to attack opponents with ammo, collect ammo, money and power cells that you can pick up, and finally, win the race. Winning the race means that you can finally get off the planet.
What sets you back is the fact that you need to spend money on two different things: repairs and ramen. Then, as soon as you’ve earned the $500, you’ve won your ticket to Mars. This point is where the fun begins.
Life On Mars
This is where the game design truly sparkles, in a retro-futuristic style pixel-art aesthetic. The area you’re in is divided into different districts and streets, such as the canal if you’re feeling nostalgic for ramen, the harbor if you want to travel across to different islands, and the nightlife district where you can find some unlawful tasks to complete.
There are numerous buildings you can enter, ones which help to repair your vehicle, ones where you can buy parts, others where you can buy food or CD soundtracks.
Then in some of these buildings, you can find mini-quests that help you earn more money, such as delivering pizzas, changing the odds of races by losing, hacking into different systems, or testing out inventions for the local inventor.
What really sells Mars to me is the use of the game design and camera angles, because it really creates a tone of the world that seems open and vibrant. Inspired by Cowboy Bebop, Akira and Redline, Desert Child is a really beautiful game once you have to freedom to explore Mars.
Shut Up And…Drive?
Whilst the racing side of the game was easy to understand, I have an additional suggestion that more explanation was needed in terms of how the race worked and what different actions contributed to the final score.
The racing part of Desert Child is applied to different tasks in the game, from escaping police custody to hacking into systems. This is where the whole idea of racing felt more like a chore more than anything else.
The overall point of Desert Child is to make the dough. Earn money in order to enter the final race to the good life. Through the world of Mars, there was the opportunity of including something different to racing. There could have been mini-games or little puzzles that took the attention away, even during the hacking task.
What Was The Problem?
Without talking about the final race, the game felt very slow paced when trying to get to that point. The aim is to make money, so everything felt like a chore and repetitive. At first, Mars seems like such an open world with different things to explore, but as soon as you do, there is nothing else left to work towards.
Another problem that came up was the story in general. It’s very simple and doesn’t have any significant characters, where even the character we play doesn’t have anything that makes him stand out. Rather than a game with an in-depth story and a thread of racing, it’s the other way around.
Whilst the above points are highlighting the game’s slow pace and repetitiveness, Desert Child seems to be more about the journey rather than the final destination. The importance of this game is earning money, and if you like racing games with an old-style approach then it will interest you.
There’s no denying that Desert Child is visually beautiful and the soundtrack only complements this, and it is definitely worth a try. If you’re still not sure, then find out more on the Steam page.