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Hoverbike racing life-sim Desert Child is out now

Desert Child feels like being an ordinary Joe making ends meet (legally or otherwise) in the offbeat sci-fi world of Cowboy Bebop. In fact, it’s launch trailer doubles down on that, riffing directly off the classic anime’s opening. Part arcade shooty race ’em up, part life sim, the other (and arguably larger) half of Oscar Brittain’s brainchild is spent wandering the streets of its future cities, eating cheap, meeting the locals, getting into sketchy deals and sometimes just stealing other people’s bike parts. I think it’s time we blow this scene, as the game is out now – check out the trailer below.

I’ve had the chance to poke around a preview build of Desert Child, although haven’t been able to invest nearly as much time into it as I would have liked. I’ve not seen half of the really wild stuff from the trailers, such as herds of kangaroos, races through vapourwave otherworlds and all that jazz. I did deliver a few pizzas though, accompanied by a cheerfully daft song about the cheesy treat. Racing itself is remarkably high stakes. If you screw up badly, you can end up exhausted, with a busted bike and almost no money to pay off your repair and food bills. It’s twitchy, focused stuff, and sometimes it’s just not worth pushing your machine hard for a win. Losing a race isn’t the end, after all.

I can see that possibility of a hard fall and hitting rock bottom being a mark against the game as I dig deeper, but it also wouldn’t feel right without it. The funky, strange soundtrack, the intensity of the side-scrolling shoot ‘o races and the chill moments between, just wandering the streets and maybe snarfing a tasty looking cinnamon roll are a heady mix. The game does offer local multiplayer, but I’ve not dug into that yet – the focus of the game feels like going fast, and trying to hold it together against the odds. Keep your eyes on the prize, and money on your mind.

Desert Child is out now on Steam, Humble and GOG for £9/€10/$12. The soundtrack – mostly by developer Oscar Brittain but with guest tracks from Mega Ran, Girlfriend Material, People Like Us and SIXIXIX costs a few quid extra, or £5.79/€6.59/$7.99. by itself. It’s published by Akupara Games.

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Dominic Tarason

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