Having seen Race the sun ages ago, I was interested at the offset. Here was a stylistically simple game, but with what looked like a complex and tough gameplay implementation. I didn’t buy the game straight away, and if I’m honest, I wish I would have kickstarted it, but alas, I waited a while and finally brought it on the humble store when it was on sale this past Christmas. Am I glad I bought the game? Hell’s yes I am! Flippfly deserve every penny of what I spent on Race the Sun, something I wouldn’t say all too often with most of the game I play. Read on as I explain what about Race the Sun drives me to this conclusion.
The game is centred around a plane that is powered by the sun, constantly moving forwards whilst avoiding obstacles. Speed increases to a certain point (dictated by how long you’re in the sunlight), to which the game stays strikingly hard until you crash into an obstacle and die instantly. This instant death mechanic keeps the player coming back for more, knowing that the game isn’t fobbing them off and it was actually their own fault they died. It’s a hooking mechanic, one which kept me playing for hours after I should have stopped many nights.
Since your plane is powered by the sun, Flippfly studios wouldn’t want to make it too easy for you to play their game, so the sun that powers you is constantly setting into the horizon, making shadows on the stage longer (shadows limit your speed and kill you should you stay in them long enough) along with making it harder to avoid obstacles or get a higher score. It’s a lovely mechanic, one which keeps you not only on your toes with the obstacles, but also on your toes looking out for the items you can get to help you on your way through this weird and wonderful world.
You see, items help to not only improve your game, but to also keep the game going and making it interesting. . You have blue pyramids that you can collect to multiply your constantly increasing score, Yellow star shaped items that increase the amount of time the sun is up in the sky whilst also giving your plane a boost in speed, a green crown shaped item that allows your plane to jump. and finally a purple shield that can be otherwise known as an extra life. All these items ensure you’re constantly aware of whats around you, not only trying to avoid your imminent death, but also checking to see if you can grab any items that are nearby to give you the advantage.
So far I’ve only talked about the mechanics, and that’s because the Race the Sun is all about the mechanics. Even the objective system, which is reminiscent of mobile games like Tiny Wings on iPhone, helps to create a feedback loop where the player is pushed to achieve the objectives (e.g. jump 20 times in one run), only to be given more items or skills in playing the game again. It’s a perfect loop, where players are encouraged to play more to unlock more to then progress further. It’s highly addictive.
Once you’ve played the game enough and gotten to a high enough level, Race the Sun will give you a new stage called “Apocalypse”. This new stage is extremely hard, being twice as fast as the original, with all manner of the hardest obstacles appearing from the offset. It’s not for the faint hearted, but was certainly challenging and fun once you start to master it on a given day.
The reason I say “given day” is due to the very way levels are built in Race the Sun. Although the stage is randomly generated, it’s generated from a seed that the developers push out to everyone’s machine daily. This seed will determine what each region will hold, so you can at least start to master the patterns of obstacles you’ll encounter. I found this aspect of the game just as intriguing as the rest, as I could never really feel comfortable, having to constantly change my tactics due to new layouts. It was refreshing.
So, with Race the Sun being made available on most platforms now (PS4, PC, Linux, PS3 and PS Vita), should you part with your money to play it? Well I for one completely understand some people being hesitant about paying $9.99/£6.99 for a game thats essentially a ported mobile game, but I can’t help but feel to surmise Race the Sun to it’s core mechanics is missing everything else it does so well. The feel of the craft and the precision gaming are fantastically hooking, so much so that you’d be hard pressed to find this simplicity elsewhere on the market. Should Race the Sun ever drop in price, either permanently or for sales, buy it, as I feel you won’t regret the time you spend with it.