Race the Sun is a type of forever runner game that has you piloting a flightless hover ship as it glides along a minimalist desert of walls, triangle spikes and blocks that fall over. Your ship is solar powered and going too far into shadows will slow you down and with the sun setting in the horizon itself, that turns the sun into a timer. Slamming into an object is failure, but you can graze an edge of your ship and be fine for a while.
On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with the game, its easy to play, left and right to steer and well left and right to steer. It takes a moment for your ship to shift. The controls are simple and work well with a keyboard or 360 controller. You can do things like barrel rolls if you steer too far one way then hard turn it the other way. You can even unlock a single jump and other upgrades for your ship like a magnet that draws in orbs.
The game is shallow and even worse it relies on only one level for the most part. This single level resets itself each day. New day, new level. Other than that, you can unlock two additional levels and even play a credits level that has you flying under the credits in what feels like a flat open space with no challenge rather than an actual level.
Because its just one level, and the game never modifies itself, it makes the game feel like its more about memory than skill. Sure it takes skill to move between two falling blocks, but it takes memory to remember that you can just drive around the wall to a much easier path.
Each level consists of different regions and each region seems to be a loop of itself twice. Well loop with some extras thrown in. As if someone copied and pasted then added some extra fluff. Between each region a white bird will zig-zag and drop four orbs one direction and four orbs another direction. Then it will drop a sun orb which surges your ship to its top speed. You’ll find several blue orbs, sun orbs and green jump orbs throughout each level. There are ramps here and there that let you catch big air, falling blocks and shadows to slow you down. The funny thing is you can jump off a ramp high over orbs and it will still collect them if you touch the beam of light over them. Perhaps that’s an unlocked feature. Its about as bare bones as it comes to runners.
You’ll find portal gates that for whatever reason send you into space where you have a view from the cockpit. The game plays much slower and everything is black. You get to see a galactic space battle in black and white as you fly through it dodging lesser vessels as they zoom by. It feels out of place at best and only makes the game feel a lot easier going so slow. If we’re still piloting the same ship when we’re in the portal, am I still powered by the sun? Where is the sun in space? I sure can’t see the sun.
In the main game itself you can change the camera view from a behind chase cam to a bumper view. Inside the galactic space battle, you’re stuck in the cockpit, pressing the camera view button shifts the view by a few pixels. its odd that the game shifts at all when its that small of a difference.
There’s a leveling up mechanic that has you accomplishing three goals to get to the next level. Getting to level eleven and twenty-five unlock new levels, but to get there you’ll need to do things like jump ten times and do twenty barrel rolls in a single play. The further you go, the more challenging these goals become. Its definitely a way to add some longevity to a shallow game that feels like little to no effort was put in. The entire game feels like no effort was put in and its really the players that need to put time into the game. I want to play here, not work here.
To the game’s credit, it looks great. The minimalist approach enhances the game and my enjoyment of it. It makes good use of a dynamic lighting system. The sun casts shadows, although some of the shadows seem to be painted on hazards to hurt your time. Even with a sun, some levels are just gray. Yes indeed, two-hundred and fifty-five shades of gray monochromatic action. Of course a level can be any color, I just seem find gray levels.
Race the Sun has a level editor and Steam workshop integration, so you can always find new levels. I took one look at the level editor, saw how deep it is and then closed it. I’ve learned so many other level editors that its tough to justify putting time into this one. The real problem is why is that our job as players to make new levels? Sure its fun to create levels, publish them and rate them, but as a developer why are we stuck with one level per day on the computer version of what is essentially a mobile game? That sort of mechanic is what keeps people coming back and sitting through ads day after day and not people that paid money.
Speaking of paying money and mobile ports, on the start screen, they have DLC, the soundtrack and the mobile version to buy. That’s understandable, a lot of bigger games, non indie games with shareholders often use this tactic right front and center and fans let them know it. Race the Sun is immune to this and people still manage to love the game for its brief and addictive gameplay. For a game that sells a soundtrack, why is there only one song? This whole game seems like a big cash grab.
There’s so little here that its a starvation and so the game keeps you coming back for more with daily courses. You keep coming back to get your moneys worth, to get that quick shallow fix and move on with life knowing that level you spent an hour memorizing and mastering will never appear again. Your work, effort and bragging rights are replaced by tomorrow’s level. A chance to wake up and do it all over again.
While I hate to judge a game for everything but the game, there’s just not much game here. you go left, you go right, take a ramp. remember what you did wrong. Wash; rinse; repeat.