Become a bounty-hunting hoverbike racer
As a future Earth slowly becomes uninhabitable, humanity begins relocating to Mars for a better life. The problem is, only the stinking rich can afford a ticket. And you? You’re just a regular kid with a beat-up hoverbike and enough dollars for a bowl of ramen and not much else.
But what you have plenty of is determination, and you’ve decided to use your hoverbike, and knack for driving, to earn enough money to make it to the Red Planet. You’ll hunt bounties, deliver pizzas and take part in racing tournaments, all to a wonderfully chill, lo-fi hip-hop soundtrack. Developer Oscar Brittain cites Akira and Cowboy Bebop as influences, and that’s clear to see in the stylish, colourful, fast-paced visuals.
Whatever you’re doing in DesertChild, whether it’s slinging pizza or engaging in deadly races with other hoverbikes, it takes the form of a side-scrolling shooter. The controls are pleasantly responsive, and the weapons all pack a gratifying punch: from the Ex-Wife, a QuakeII- style railgun, to the Dirty Barry, a futuristic take on a .44 magnum. The chaotic combat is reminiscent of Vlambeer shooters such as NuclearThrone, which combines beautifully with the high-speed racing.
You move across a semi-3D plane with the analogue stick (a controller is recommended) and can boost sideways and forwards by tapping A. The pace is breakneck and the amount of noise on the screen is a bit overwhelming at first, but as you adapt to its unique flow it becomes intoxicating. It’s not as intense as a bullet hell-style shooter, but it does require similar levels of focus as your screen explodes with light and colour.
Between activities you can wander around a desert town, which features some lovely rotoscoped animation. Here you can pawn stuff for cash to repair your bike and fill up on ramen.
You’ll also be able to customise your hoverbike with “guns, amplifiers, and tasteless bumper stickers” and “dine on a range of interplanetary cuisine with sweet buffs to help you win”. Brittain also says the game has been designed with replayability in mind, promising “secrets that will keep you coming back”. My early demo was pretty basic, but even so, as a proof of concept it has me pretty excited.
DesertChild is an incredibly cool game, marrying some supremely satisfying shooting and driving with vivid art, an intriguing storyline and a brilliant soundtrack. I’m interested to see where this hoverbike racer’s adventure takes him, and I like the idea of the game culminating with “the biggest race in the universe” when he finally scrapes enough money together to reach Mars.
Developer Oscar Brittain cites Akira and Cowboy Bebop as influences
Your hoverbike is your life.