While this combination of racing and ultra-light role-playing is certainly original and well-made, it’s all a little too sparse and never blossoms into anything truly involving. The way the game allows you to endlessly walk its locations and choose any activity at almost any point accords with its relaxed attitude, but makes the experience loose and inconsequential – there’s never much at stake, and no real need to plan ahead.
Similarly, on the bike, all the activities are fun, but ultimately not substantial, varied or challenging enough. In races, different environments and opponents provide little more than cosmetic variation, while the diverse objectives in other modes are actually very similar in execution. Even bike customisation, which introduces a neat puzzle element based on arranging modifications and power cells in a limited space, lacks sufficient depth.
Occasionally, an opponent makes you work for victory and it’s tempting to wonder if the bike racing could have really come alive in a different structure. But keeping everything in tune with the easy-going feel is more important for Desert Child. It deserves respect for adhering to its stylistic vision, even if the result is merely a pleasant way to pass a few hours, rather than something truly compelling.
Desert Child’s soundtrack is exceptional, from the slow, funky hip-hop that accompanies your walks around town, to the more upbeat futuristic themes tailored to accompany each bike event. It all harmonises perfectly with the visual styling to convey the main character’s personality and boost the overall experience.
Original and stylish, but too chilled to make the most of its content.
_This story is an excerpt from Wireframe magazine Issue #5. Interested in regular updates from the world of video games? Become a subscriber. _