You’d think that since I have something of a obsession with competitive style games, ones that often require fast reflexes, would lead to an appreciation for other twitch based games. In general though I don’t find that’s the case as more often than not I find myself feeling drained by the experience, wondering why I’m giving myself RSI just to get to the next level. I am a sucker for unique takes on traditional game mechanics though and Race The Sun, the first PC game from independent studio Flippfly and hot off their Kickstarter campaign, manage to bypass much of the anxiety I felt with other similar styles of games whilst still providing a challenging experience.
You’re a solar powered craft, gliding peacefully across the planet. The problem is though that you have a limited life as you can only move when the sun is shining down of you. This presents something of a problem as the sun is going down…fast. The race is on then for you to catch up with it, extending what short life you have so that you can continue your journey across this spartan world. It’s not that simple of course as the way is covered with obstacles and shiny trinkets, things that can lead to your untimely demise should you break your concentration for a split second.
Race The Sun utilizes incredibly simple graphics with the vast majority of detail in the world being provided by the shadows cast from all the untextured objects. It’s something that you’ll be thankful for as you progress through the game as later levels will be littered with innumerable objects, all of which are capable of putting an end to your short journey. Thus the simple visual style allows you to determine safe paths very far out although being able to stick to them is another matter entirely. Whilst Race The Sun is only available on PC currently I could easily see the game running very well on a wide range of mobile devices something which I’m sure is in the works considering Flippfly’s previous title.
The mechanics of Race The Sun are simple in essence, you simply have to keep going forward and avoiding any obstacles along your way. The further you go the more points you get and you can boost your score even higher by collecting “Tris”, small pyramid structures that dot the landscape. In principle this would make for a pretty straightforward game, very similar to other games like BIT.TRIP Runner, however Race The Sun throws in a bunch of other mechanics to ensure that your journey is never quite the same nor as simple as you might first think.
Initially all you do is avoid obstacles and in doing so you’ll earn yourself points, eventually levelling you up. As you level up you’re granted more and more powers such as being able to collect jump power ups or be able to equip your ship with new powers to make certain aspects easier. These challenges, whilst starting off simple, rapidly turn into the game’s main source of replayability as they encourage you to attempt behaviour that is antithetical to your main goal of moving forward to increase your score. The most memorable one by far was the one where I could only turn left through 2 whole regions, something which proved to be incredibly difficult given the fact that one mistake can lead to your downfall.
The powers also help spice things up a bit as they enable you to do things that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to. The magnet for instance, the first power you get, allows you to collect Tris from further away than normal. It doesn’t seem that noticeable at first but you’ll be able to do things like saddle up next to Tris that are on high platforms to collect them without having to use a ramp or jump power up to do so. Whilst I’ve yet to unlock more than the first 2 powers suffice to say that they can be game changing and I’m sure the ones I haven’t unlocked yet are.
Race The Sun’s world is also regenerated every 24 hours, giving you enough time to become familiar with it but not long enough that you’d be able to write a strategy guide for it before the world shifted again. Due to its procedural nature some of the worlds are more conducive to certain types of play than others so if you’re finding yourself being unable to complete a certain challenge it’s probably worth your time to wait until tomorrow to give it another go. Of course it can also be somewhat frustrating to get a great strategy down only to have it dashed by the world remaking itself but for the most part any tactics you come up with in one world will be transferable to the next.
Race The Sun is a great little distraction, offering up intense twitch based game play coupled with a minimalistic style and intriguing game mechanics. The daily world regeneration and leaderboards will ensure that anyone with a competitive bent will find a lot of enjoyment out of it, attempting to find the best path through Race The Sun’s world in order to maximise their score. It might not have the staying power of similar games in its genre but it’s very enjoyable, offering up a challenge that’s both unique and refreshing.
Race The Sun is available on PC right now for $10. Total game time was approximately 1.5 hours with 24% of the achievements unlocked.