You have not played a game quite like Desert Child. I can absolutely guarantee, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this sentence is true.
It's a bizarre blend of side-scrolling shooter, racing game, life simulation, and meandering life-pondering, and it works brilliantly.
You'll be drawn in by the gorgeous, Another World-esque graphics before it hooks you deeper with its intense action and weird vibe. It's magnificent. You have not played a game quite like it.
Sweet Desert Child o' mineYour time in Desert Child is split between two main modes of play - speedbike races and pottering about the worlds interacting with folks and going shopping.
The former is pretty self-explanatory. You zip from left to right on a hoverbike, dodging obstacles and shooting at TVs to speed up, regain some ammo, or earn some much-needed cash.
Each race is a head-to-head affair - you only need to look out for one other racer and make sure you cross the finish line ahead of them to win, so the action never gets too chaotic.
Your main concern will be your ammo and boost. Ammo can be refilled through certain TVs or by boosting up to a truck in the distance when you completely run out. Boost, meanwhile, recovers on its own, but is in pretty limited supply.
You also need to make sure you're not taking too much damage in races. Smack into one too many pillars and you'll need to shell out a hefty fee to get it fixed - or pay a little less and pray it holds together in the next race.
Hunger also plays a part in your races. Ignore your most basic human need and your boost meter will take longer to fill, making future battles much, much harder on yourself.
Out in the desertThis is where the life-sim area of the game comes into play. You need to pay for repairs, buy food, pick up new upgrades, and so on to make yourself competitive. But you also need to raise enough money to reach the next chapter of the game.
It's easy enough at the very beginning - you have a street of three shops to interact with and a pretty low cash ceiling to hit. But make it to Mars and suddenly the game opens up considerably.
You'll have to find new and interesting ways to earn cash, from deliberately losing races to simply delivering pizza. Strangers on the street will sell you their wares, some of which you may simply vomit straight onto the floor. And the city you live in is vast, twisting, and confusing - so try not to get lost.
At its core, both the life-sim and racing elements are good, but pretty standard. What sets Desert Child apart is the feel of the world as a whole.
It's confusing and unsettling, and you never really feel like you understand what's happening at any one time. You're scrounging for cash doing odd jobs, having to make tough decisions about whether to upgrade your bike or just suffer on as you are.
The characters are pretty one-dimensional, but each one feels unique and interesting somehow. And did I mention how beautiful it all looks? Because holy hell, it is a good-looking game.
On a horse with no nameThere's nothing I don't like about Desert Child. It's simple to pick up and play, but it's hiding a dark world and difficult choices under its relatively basic presentation.
It challenges you both with twitchy racing sections and having to make choices between food and upgrades. It sucks you into its world with ease, and it refuses to let go no matter how hard you resist.
You have not played anything like Desert Child before. And you absolutely, seriously need to. Go buy it. Right now.