Race to survive — Hands-on with Desert Child at E3 2018

This year at E3, I had was invited to play the retro-futuristic high-speed racer, Desert Child.

A peek into a bleak future – Desert Child builds its story on a world plagued by overpopulation, starvation, and poverty. Humanity is looking to Mars for survival, your goal: make sure you’re along for the ride.

One of many vying for their chance at deliverance, players must win races to prove their worthiness for a life off-world. Relying on your wits and an array of vintage hoverbikes, you’re tasked to stay in the game as long as possible. Take side-missions to earn quick cash to repair and customize your bike, and stay alert with a meal at a local ramen shop.

Game Features

  • Hunt bounties, deliver contraband, throw races – do anything you can to earn cash.
  • Explore a pixel-art solar system inspired by Cowboy Bebop, Akira and Redline.
  • Customize your beloved bike with Guns, Amplifiers and tasteless bumper stickers.
  • Dine on a range of interplanetary cuisine with sweet buffs to help you win.
  • Master deep combat and racing mechanics and define your own style.
  • Race, shoot, and get better! Designed for replayability, with secrets that keep you coming back.
  • Chill to a sci-fi soundtrack.

My hands-on started in a trance. Growing up with arcades, the sounds, the lights, the smells all came rushing back when I saw the absolutely stunning Desert Child cabinet on the E3 show floor. Light blue, pink, and off-white buttons, mixed with pop-reds, deep navy-blues, and forest greens made for a gorgeous color palette. I had high hopes for this game.

Skipping a long-winded introduction cutscene (and having my gracious guide type in some cheat codes), I was dropped into the first race of “Chapter 1”. Mashing buttons out of instinct, I began to notice my hoverbike falling behind. I was instructed to refuel using the last of my “boosts” to hop onto a fuel-truck at the bottom of the screen. Back in the running, my appreciation for the game’s controls grew. Avoiding obstacles, monitoring fuel, and picking up bonuses was hard enough – all of this was to be done while also trying to eliminate opponents. Not an easy task by any means.

My inaugural race ended in tragedy. My hoverbike in pieces and my opponent celebrating his victory in a far-off paradise (probably) – my spirits dipped even lower being served my post-race scorecard. “F”. We walked through my disgraceful score – revealing the underlying strategy of the game: precision. Weapons accuracy, lead-time, and even MPG are factored into your overall score – begging for you to beat your best time over and over again.

Nothing soothes an injured ego better than Ramen (apparently). Strolling through the nondescript desert down, I piloted my now-ambulatory character to a local Ramen shop. I quickly downed a serving, restoring my hunger by 20% – twice more put me back on top and ready to race! Kind of…

Desert Child doesn’t let you off that easy. Nearly destroying my hoverbike in the last race, I was forced to find a repair shop before taking on new challengers. Navigating the town was easy with the Desert Child team nearby, but I can definitely see myself getting lost in the expansive town when I pick this up for myself.

Humor is built into this game in a big way. Hallucinogenic beans and snarky dialogue are amongst a long list of hilarious easter eggs that make the game that much more fun to explore. That and the immense potential for replayability, an intriguing storyline, and an absolutely gorgeous graphic style make this title one to look out for later this year. Though no release date is set in stone, we’re told to expect release on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC/Mac.

Keep an eye out for news from their official site and don’t forget to check out our footage from E3 for a closer look at Desert Child.

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