Game Review #097: Desert Child (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewer: Chad M.
Developer: Oscar Brittain
Publisher: Akupara Games
Category: Racing, Action, Role-Playing, Simulation
Release Date: 12.11.2018 Pricing (at time of review): $11.99
Buy Desert Child from the Nintendo eShop here.
The Race Starts Here
I just had said in a former review that racing games are few and far between at the moment on the eShop, and now here I am reviewing my second in a row—though, the game we are talking about isn’t your typical racing game by any means. I hope this is an uptick, and that racing games start getting more love, because it’s such a fun and underappreciated genre on the Switch. The game I’m looking at today is another that uses retro graphics and retro gameplay to capture our hearts with nostalgia. This is another successful attempt for an indie developer to connect with an audience online through Kickstarter crowdfunding. As a young kid, I didn’t play a lot of racing games, but I dabbled from time to time. As an adult, I’ve learned to appreciate them much more. So, pairing a new love with an old love should be an easy sell on Desert Child, right?
Where’s The Finish Line
The story starts in a future that is inspired by works like Akira, Cowboy Bebop, and Redline, where our main character is a young hover-bike racer who is willing to do almost anything to get off of Earth and get to Mars to race in the Grand Prix. The main reason is that Earth is becoming uninhabitable, and the wealthy have been leaving and heading over to Mars for years at this point to start their new lives. Well, now the government has changed their minds on the shuttle prices, so you have to work double time to get to Mars. Once there, you will do a number of things to get enough dough together to enter into the Grand Prix.
Gameplay & Fun Factor
The game itself is packaged as a racing game, but the aspects of the game I liked the most were everything but the racing. The racing in the game didn’t feel natural or well-designed, though it looked very nice. It would have been nice to have some sort of throttle to control the speed of your bike. Instead we are tasked to shooting orbs to increase the speed, and I never really saw how that affected my races. I went multiple races without shooting at all, and just conserved my boosts until the mid-way and end of the races, and won practically every time. Then, I would try so hard to win a race only to have my opponent immediately slingshot ahead at the last second and win the race. The racing element felt like it didn’t take a lot of skill, and most was left up to chance, so though I even tried the two-player racing, it didn’t come to match what my expectations were in the slightest.
So, in saying that the racing is only a portion of this game, the other portion is sim-style, with slight RPG elements and quite a few mini-games. This is where I had the most fun playing the game, and what was the saving grace of the experience. You walk around Mars interacting with a lot of NPCs, visiting shops to buy or sell items, and restaurants too. It's good to eat, because if you don’t, it will affect your racing—at least that’s what the game implies. While walking around talking to mechanics or the guy on the pier selling fish, you can stop at any point and jump back into racing local talent for cash.
What I prefer to do over racing was the mini-games. While walking, if you see a bike, you can steal parts of the bike, and then, in turn, sell them for some quick cash or use them on your bike. When stealing, you have a simple mini-game where it’s a four-digit code and you press the button when the number turns red. The couple times I wasn’t able to get it in time the cops never came and I wasn’t punished, which was a little disappointing, as it killed some of the risk/reward element from the game. You can also use your time delivery pizzas, herding kangaroos by shooting them, catching criminals as a bounty hunter (which is just a race), tutoring punk kids on how to race (which again is just a race), and you can also rob banks on your hover-bike, but also in the cyber space world. I didn’t really get it, but it was fun nonetheless.
Audio & Visuals
Oscar Brittain is a small indie developer that’s a one-man team with so much potential, and Desert Child shows that in spades. Visually the game is gorgeous, as you can see how Oscar was inspired by not only anime like Cowboy Bebop to give it a certain vibe, but also classic SNES titles like Flashback and Out of this World to give it a very nostalgic look. The music is a lo-fi hip hop that settles in perfectly to the laid back environment in which your character prowls looking for ways to make the scratch to enter the big race.
When I went into Desert Child, I was initially excited to play a racing game that had RPG elements. Once I got into it, I wasn’t blown away by the racing, but I really was into the nostalgic look of the game, with the incredible soundtrack that set every scene so I could really get lost in the grind of it. I say grind because the game does have that element while you work to acquire the funds needed through all the small tasks throughout, but all the little pieces put together made a nice game that I enjoyed playing.
Buy Desert Child from the Nintendo eShop here.
Follow Oscar Brittain
Website (Oscar Brittain)
Website (Desert Child)
Follow Akupara Games
*Review Code Provided by Akupara Games