Part endless runner, part platformer, Race the Sun is an indie game with a simple objective, and the clue really is in the name.
Your mission is to race the sun, and sooner or later you’re going to lose. But that doesn’t make competing any less fun, and certainly no less addictive.
First released in August of 2013, Race the Sun was launched following a successful Kickstarter campaign by indie developer Flippfly (no, we hadn’t heard of them either.) But shortly after its launch exclusively on the Flippfly website, it made its way onto Steam through the Greenlight process, and recently appeared on the Humble Daily Sale alongside Muse Games’ Guns Of Icarus. It was from there that we picked up our copy, and boy were we pleasantly surprised.
Aesthetics are a core aspect of Race The Sun’s appeal, and the minimalist, geometric landscape you’re thrown into at the beginning of each run is truly a sight to behold. The sun is setting high in the sky ahead of you, and your sleek, aerodynamic craft needs solar-power to keep it moving. So dodging the shadows of each region’s obstacles (as well as the obstacles themselves) is essential to your progress.
On successfully completing each section, you emerge into a mercifully empty area for a moment of peace, and a white bird flies overhead dropping assorted pickups, before you’re accelerated back into the fray.
It’s these pickups that provide the few splashes of colour in the otherwise pale environment, and they increase in variety the further through the game you progress. The most common are semi-transparent blue prisms called ‘Tri’s.’ Grabbing five of these by flying into them (or just close, depending on your ship configuration) increases your score multiplier by one, and are essential if you’re determined to reach the five and ten-million points required for the game’s harder achievements.
Green, pointed gems also pop-up occasionally, allowing you to jump with a tap of the A-button (or spacebar), and purple shields give you a second-chance at life when you inevitably slam your craft into one of the world’s abstract obstacles. Arguably the most essential of drops though, are the energy boosts that come in the form of gold stars. These send your ship shooting forward (making things even more dangerous) but also momentarily reverse the setting sun, providing a little more time for you to rack up the points.
Two different types of portal crop up in the pseudo-procedurally generated landscape too. The smaller, green ones immediately spit you out at the end of the region you’re racing through, and the aptly named ‘emergency portals’ (which appear at dead-ends and to the sides of harder, moving obstacles) transport you the ‘Void’, a region set in an asteroid field in space, with plenty of Tri’s to collect.
To keep you incentivised and motivated through all the times you destroy your ship, RTS also features its own levelling system. Semi-randomised objectives appear on the right-hand side of the pause/results screen, each worth a number of points depending on difficulty. Accrue enough points and you level up, unlocking attachments and upgrades for the ship, like the ability to store multiple jump gems, or a magnet to grab pickups from further away. At the higher end of the scale, cosmetic changes in the form of decals become available, and are always accompanied by humorously patronising messages from the devs.
Once you feel like you’ve got the hang of the regular game, you can try your hand at ‘Apocalypse’ mode, for which the difficulty is ramped up massively. The sun starts lower in the sky, there’s a heavy increase in the density of obstacles, and the once friendly trans-region bird occasionally drops blocks in font of you, rather than handy pickups.
For a (potentially) less lethal experience, RTS also supports Workshop on Steam, opening up a host of user-created maps to fly through with some great variety and truly unique aesthetics.
In short, Race The Sun is a simple, yet addictive endless runner with a fantastic look, excellent soundtrack and a deep system. We’ve racked up over thirteen hours on it so far and are still determined to polish-off the last two hard-as-nails achievements. At only £6.99 it’s tremendous value for money and great for arcade-style pick-up-and-play sessions.
Some small bugs on the menu screens (usually when swapping between keyboard and controller) can be occasionally frustrating, but it’s a small issue in an otherwise well-crafted experience.
Just remember, “Don’t crash, stay in the light, and don’t slow down!”