It’s no wonder that indie games are the place to be these days. They consistently surprise us, pleasantly, with creativity that feels so free, so unbound by rules. Race the Sun is one such game, and it gets pretty much everything right.
Your job is to fly a solar-powered craft across a trippy, jagged environment that is as beautiful as it is deadly. Hit patches of shade for too long and you’ll stop – that is if you don’t crash first. It’s a simple concept, a twist on the endless runner games you’d find a plethora of on touchscreen devices (and here’s hoping that Race the Sun makes that jump too, as it’s perfectly suited to touch controls), but it’s the constant grabbing at your attention that makes it so successful.
As you get further and further into the world, you will be rewarded with visuals morphing, becoming ever more interesting. But more than that, there are multiple objectives you’ll both achieve naturally and have to try for. Every time you complete three of these, you’ll unlock something new that will affect how you play the game.
Take the earliest game-changer upgrade: jump. At first, it’s confusing as to why you even need an action button, but then, a few upgrades in – just as you’re getting the hang of the first few areas – you’ll unlock the jump pick-up. It’s simple (again), but once you collect the green object you can do a one-time jump and get above obstacles that may cause you trouble otherwise. Before that, you’ll unlock the mechanic that lets you raise your score multiplier, and yet more unlocks will require you to customise your actual ship itself.
Speaking of scores, in a clever move, FlippyFly have made the leaderboards reset every day along with the landscapes themselves. You may be cock of the walk one day, but within 24 hours you’ll be back on a level playing field with everyone else, vying for that top spot. The layouts seems consistently clever too, and the score triangles and pick-ups will sit tantalisingly close to a mountain pique or other object that will destroy you if touched.
It’s a lovely looking game, and although at first it appears as though you’re just being faced with geometric shapes, it’s the lighting and general ambience that engulfs you so. You really are racing the sun, as it feels very distant no matter how fast you’re going, no matter how high your multiplier. The soundtrack is designed to match, both intense yet calming, just like Race the Sun itself – lulling any pilot into a false sense of security, before smacking them in the face with a square that suddenly moves. You learn a valuable lesson every time you fail.
On top of all of the above, there’s also a level editor so the community can create their own horrifyingly tricky designs, which is a stroke of genius as it allows for a break from the repetition if you’re finding any given stage particularly troublesome. The Xbox 360 controller is supported, but the movement is tight and well executed, so you’ll be just fine if you are left with only keyboard as your control input method, too – either way, the controls are super responsive.
VERDICT: A blissful, almost trance-like state can be achieved when playing Race the Sun, and despite being a game that slowly reveals itself to you, rewarding you for getting better, this is worth shouting about. Get involved, and I’ll see you on the leaderboards. I’ll be the one in last place.
VERY GOOD. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.