Guess the object of new cross-platform game Race the Sun? The clue is in the title. Yep you’re racing not other vehicles, but the very sun itself. Steer a solar-powered craft across various lands for as long as possible as fast as possible, because when that sun sets your ship powers down and your time in this bleak and hazardous land will come to an end. Sound like fun? It really is.
Race the Sun is an intense experience. While the control system is very simple and the landscape a muted geometric environment, the gameplay itself is sharp and energetic. You’ll need strong nerves and the reflexes of a spacecraft-driving ninja. You must fly as fast as possible to keep up with the sun and stay out of the crippling shadows, so look out for glowing yellow pickups that will give you a burst of speed and push back the sinking sun. Of course, it’s bloody typical that you’ll spot one of these glowing treasures in the far distance on the far left while you’re heading for the far right. Are you going to risk a dangerous barrel roll across the landscape? Have I mentioned that you’ll need these speed boosts to keep the sun hanging in the sky and your ship powered? Have I mentioned that you only have one life and every time you slap your ship headlong into something you’ll have to start all over again from the very beginning? It’s a cruel, cruel world.
Each race through a region is called a run. Get through a region without scraping your wings or completely annihilating yourself and score a perfect run. Pick up bonuses in the form of blue triangles (which are sometimes pooped out by a mysterious white bird) and boost your multiplier score. A series of challenges will distract you from your many deaths. Travel a particular distance, achieve so many perfect runs or perform a suicidal number of barrel rolls. As you level up, you will gradually unlock abilities and decorations for your ship which you can configure to your own preferences. Later in the game you will also unlock the Apocalypse world for the shock and race of your short life. A few runs in that environment and racing in the regular world will feel life drifting on a gentle autumn breeze.
As you progress through the game, you’ll find different pickups that will allow you to cheat death or at the very least help you swerve it for a few seconds longer. Portals will transport you either to the safety of the end of a region or way up into the void of space to pluck a crap-load of multiplier triangles from an asteroid belt. Pink pickups will allow you to smash head first into a wall and magically survive (in essence an extra life), and green Pickups will allow your ship to jump high into the air and skim the obstacles below. Don’t get too cocky, though. Some of the obstacles are extremely tall. Nothing worse than a steeple in your exhaust pipe.
If you do get poked with something sharp and nasty or you’ve smacked into a windmill without a pink pickup in your pocket you’ll be unceremoniously marched back to the start of the game with no dinner and no TV. It hurts. Just try to learn where the windmill and steeple are and don’t smack into them again. Learn the layout of each region, the safest passages and the pickup locations. Learn quickly, though, because tomorrow the world will reset and the regions randomly regenerate. This adds a whole new dimension, challenge and level of interest to the game. You’ll be on your toes so much you’ll be picking out ballet shoes.
There’s nothing not to like here as long as you learn to expect a cataclysmic death every few minutes. The fun is in lasting just a little longer each time and obtaining a better score, more upgrades and more achievements. This isn’t my usual type of game. I’m not a racing fan. I am indie fan, though, and Flippfly have done a stellar job with Race the Sun. It’s an original idea that has come to fruition with exceptional gameplay and smooth bug-free controls.
While Race the Sun’s minimalist graphics may seem an odd choice at first, they suit the game very well. There’s nothing fancy going on here. It’s just an endless racer. It’s just an on-screen crash waiting to happen. It’s just five minutes that will turn into an hour and then two hours and then ‘just one more run’. Race the Sun is all about the gameplay and it’s proof that you don’t need next gen graphics for an addictive experience. All you need is a setting sun, a solar-powered space ship and some awesome ninja steering.
S J Hollis Rating – 9/10