Try the demo for this slick hoverbike racing RPG

Desert Child is a racing RPG with a rags-to-riches storyline, customizable hoverbikes and a variety of odd jobs. It's centrally about balancing life's demands—namely keeping a roof over your head and food on the table—while making a name for yourself as a racer, but it plays like a 2D side-scrolling shoot-'em-up. 

It's currently on Kickstarter, with solo developer Oscar Brittain asking for $9,387 to bring it to life. At the time of writing, its campaign has generated $2,628 and will run for another 26 days. However, you can already download the free demo for Desert Child via its GameJolt page. 

"The player begins their story on a ruined Earth, with just a few days to get to Mars," Brittain says. "From there, you'll win races, customize your bike, and earn fans, but at the same time, you'll have to work jobs, eat dinner and pay rent." 

Earning money through races is the meat of Desert Child. You can improve your chances by beefing up your hoverbike with myriad weapons and parts, tuning it for speed or power depending your playstyle and your current mission. You'll also use your hoverbike to complete side gigs like smuggling and bounty hunting. 

When you're not riding your hoverbike, you have to keep a close eye on stats like your funds and hunger meter. And these are more than just numbers; common activities like eating, saving money and repairing your bike tie directly into exploration. You'll want to scope out Desert Child's seedy hub cities to make connections, dig up more profitable ventures and find a decent place to live. 

Brittain says Desert Child was chiefly inspired by anime, specifically Cowboy Bebop, Akira and Redline. Game-wise, he says he's drawing inspiration primarily from Flashback, Driver, Vanquish, Final Fantasy 8, Luftrausers and Nier: Automata. These influences are strongly reflected in Desert Child's grungy sci-fi setting, underdog premise and excellent soundtrack, which is an appealing combination. 

Desert Child began as a simple shoot-'em-up, Brittain says, but evolved to incorporate life sim, adventure game and RPG elements, and nearest I can tell it's better for it. It looks like a fun mashup of themes and genres, and is certainly one to watch as it approaches its March 2018 release date. 

Austin Wood
Staff writer, GamesRadar

Austin freelanced for PC Gamer, Eurogamer, IGN, Sports Illustrated, and more while finishing his journalism degree, and has been a full-time writer at PC Gamer's sister publication GamesRadar+ since 2019. They've yet to realize that his position as a staff writer is just a cover-up for his career-spanning Destiny column, and he's kept the ruse going with a focus on news, the occasional feature, and as much Genshin Impact as he can get away with.