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Desert Child Review: Juice

/ Jan 7th, 2019 No Comments

Desert Child Review

Desert Child is all about the thrill of the race. It is about coming up from nothing to be the best. To be the best, you’re going to have to find ways to make money, and that doesn’t always mean winning races.

The Come Up

Some would call it luck. It was anything but luck, though … This is what you’ve been dreaming of doing since you were a kid. To be a top racer wasn’t a goal, it was an inevitability. No one could deny your skill, much less your hustle. They all knew you were the real deal when you beat Lady Scarlet.

She took a shine to you and recognized your skills. While you were out in the middle of nowhere racing for peanuts, she told you to keep at it and meet her on Mars. It was always your goal to make it to the Mars Grand Prix no matter how long it took, how many pizzas you had to deliver, how many bounties you had to chase down, or how many kangaroos you had to wrangle — not mentioning the other less savory things you had to do.

Desert Child Review
Lady Scarlet sees a lot of promise in you.

Desert Child’s narrative is easy to get into because you’re an up-and-comer working your way up to the top. Every race and every dollar gets you one step closer to being the man. While the game isn’t narrative heavy, its simple setup does a great job of creating a sense of space.

Much of what draws you into the story is the actions you perform and how you explore the world. Truthfully, the story becomes what you make of it. You can focus on racing without ever seeing what else Mars has to offer.

Born to Race

Racing is the foundation of Desert Child’s gameplay. It informs not only the races themselves, but the other activities you can do. Naturally, the question that begs to be asked then is: Is racing gameplay any good?

Racing feels fantastic thanks to the smart use of the Switch’s HD Rumble. Every bit of damage and every bullet you shoot has a tactile response replicating the feedback of an actual race. The gameplay is relatively easy to pick up, but there is a depth that you’ll only get the hang of after racing for awhile.

Races take place in a side-scrolling perspective where you’re navigating your bike around obstacles and opponents. During a race, you have the option to boost, shoot and bash. Knowing how best to use each tool you have will not only keep you winning races, but let you earn high marks that net you more cash and power cells.

Whether you’re boosting to get ahead of your opponents or bashing an object for a no-shoot kill, you’ll burn your boost charge. You can refill the charge by shooting red dot TVs for a boost pickup. Side-boosting doesn’t use boost charge, but it can cause needless damage if you aren’t careful.

Knowing how and when to use your boost charge is an important aspect to winning races as this will largely determine who crosses the finish line first. Sometimes, it isn’t about who is ahead in the race, but who knows how to use their boost charge effectively to make it over the line at the last moment.


Since boosting is so vital to races, it is affected by a number of factors, such as your hunger level and bike damage. The hungrier you are, the slower your boost refills; the more damage your bike takes, the less boost capacity you will have. Ensuring your bike damage is low and you’re not hungry will help give you an edge in a race.

The other vital aspect of racing is shooting. Your bike comes equipped with gunnery and using it is necessary. The obvious benefit of shooting is destroying TVs containing cash and boost pickups. More pressing is destroying hostile pink TVs that shoot projectiles at you.

A secondary benefit of shooting is it increases your speed. The key to any race is to be shooting constantly. However, you need to be mindful of your ammo because you can find yourself in a bad spot if you run out. When you’re out of ammo, an ammo truck will show up allowing you to refill. You can also keep refilling your ammo by bashing boost TVs. If you’re being mindful of ammo and boost TVs, you shouldn’t find yourself needing the ammo truck.

Desert Child Review
Learning the essentials of racing will help you make it to the Grand Prix.

To aid you in races, you have the option to use mods on your bike. These mods are found by stealing bike parts hidden around Mars or by purchasing them at a shop. Installing mods is relatively easy. You simply go to your bike and slot them into the open space you have for mods.

In order to power your mods, you’ll need to install power cells, which are won during races or purchased at a shop. Mods are useless without power cells, and the more power cells a specific mod has, the more powerful it will be. By coming up with good mod combinations, you can really give yourself an edge in a race.

Means to an End

Your goal in Desert Child is make it to Mars and to compete in the Grand Prix. Nothing comes for free though, so you’ll need to earn money. While winning races nets you some money, winning alone won’t get you into the Grand Prix. You’ll have to find other means to increase your funds.

Besides racing, there are plenty of activities to do in Desert Child, both legal and illegal. While they aren’t races, they still utilize the racing setup, so many of the important tenets of racing are important for these side activities. In terms of legal gigs, you can deliver pizzas (which has the greatest song in the entire game and maybe ever), hunt down bounties and wrangle kangaroos. These delightfully bizarre odd jobs help give the game its unique style.

Desert Child Review
Exploring Mars will help you get the true scope of what activities are available to you.

On the more illicit side of things, you’re able to perform some less savory tasks for a shady guy who sets up shop in one of Mars’ nightclubs. He’ll ask you to do things like hack a bank, throw a race or create a distraction. Doing these tasks yields good money, but they also raise your notoriety level. If your level gets too high, the cops will come for you. When they catch you, you’ll lose any money you possess that isn’t in the bank.

Since money is so central to story progression, you’ll want to learn where the bank is and make regular deposits. This not only protects your money from the cops, but also allows you to earn some serious interest. While you’ll still have to win races, wrangle kangaroos and hack some banks, if you’re not looking to grind out the full $10,000 to enter the Grand Prix, putting your money in the bank will be the fastest way to do so.


Desert Child is a wildly unique game with fantastic visual style and remarkable music. While the aesthetics are off the chart, it doesn’t lack in terms of gameplay. The racing in the game is a lot of fun and helps put you in the mindset of an up-and-coming racer trying to make it to Mars.

If you’re looking for a change of pace, give Desert Child a spin.

Desert Child was reviewed with a code provided by the publisher.



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Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
Kalvin Martinez

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Gaming Illustrated RATING



Whether it is racing against opponents for power cells and cash to work your way up the rankings or racing to deliver pizzas or to herd kangaroos, you’ll feel the thrill of speeding toward the finish line.


Desert Child has a striking art style that plays with perspective in some insanely inventive ways.


The music is an integral part of Desert Child dictating the length of races and contributing to the unique feel of the game. It is one of the best soundtracks in awhile.


In Desert Child, you’re a young race trying to make it to Mars and race in the Grand Prix. The simple concept is elevated by the game’s panache.

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