Review – Race the Sun

Far far away, crafts race against the sun at hyper speed, pushing the limit of physics to catch every glimmering ray. Some wonder if it’s simply so they can keep up battery life but the rays are essential to the crafts, the radiant nutrition that keeps them alive.

Race the Sun is a unique entry into the racing field, coming from an independent background it pushes to experiment with the idea of a craft being the user avatar. Like a human seeking out oxygen to avoid suffocation, the craft races through shadows and against time itself as death itself approaches. Levels overflow with pillars, tunnels and obstacles to slow players, kill players or rob them of valuable light. The blend isn’t perfect and some areas feel extremely linear but it’s in a league of its own which is rare but also every reason for them to continue their dedication to development.

The visuals are simple, the colors muted and the emotion is largely dead; players race through a near purgatory hoping to see just a few more minutes of life. While there’s debate on how color might impact the overall tone, past games from the arcade era like S.T.U.N. Runner operated on an equally basic delivery and still delivered enjoyment. For me, Race the Sun starts to lose a bit of appeal when it turns into pure survival instinct over a mix of speed and excitement. There are few random jumps, often they’re calculated to pair with a floating bridge, at some point the appearance of the ramps and open space ahead with a fork is predictable. It needs to stop that, ramps can have a radius to send a ship sideways and not everything has to narrow into a valley.

Similar graphical games of the past have attempted to supplement this challenge with rolling tunnels, leap of faith jumps and more. While I understand the worlds generate for the main design, you start to really think that after repeating runs over time and that’s never good unless it’s intentional. Having instant thoughts of “Stage 3 = spikes, narrow path, few jumps, enemy ships floating” is good for an arcade game but I don’t think that’s purely what Race the Sun wants aim for, but if it does, it’s still not quite there.

Other than that, Race the Sun delivers, the first hours into the game are enjoyable, the user-created levels work to bridge into new creativity and use of the engine with first person view, trees and other objects to give larger appeal. The longer term investment into the game drives realizations about the current generator options and hopefully Flippfly can help counter that with improved variety and less predictable stages. I do enjoy what the game offers, I’m upset that I’m mentally prepared for variations of relatively any stage number.

The team has worked hard, there’s no doubt in that, having a live beta to experience as they drive to the finish line is a unique experience. Seeing the game and dynamics take subtle shifts along the way allows a player to feel like their opinion is actively shaping their experience vs being fed random shots of change. Hopefully Flippfly’s commitment continues to drive their experimentation with Race the Sun, it certainly has the potential to go higher from this point.

The good:

  • Scales impossibly well, even at Eyefinity the engine just pours on
  • Challenges are the name of this game, maps rotate and striving to top of the charts is a chore
  • Manning the craft means fighting for life, chasing for light as the darkness envelops everything.
  • Online top lists and portal jumping allow players to interact in relay races and other competition building forms.
  • Stands as a unique entry in a genre crowded with Sim trucks to mock racing leagues.

The not so good:

  • Levels become predictable for format or expected challenges
  • Interactive object placement is just strategy and memorization (jumps to platforms, tunnels sweep right left in most cases)

Race the Sun has a lot to offer that we haven’t seen yet, one just has to hope that Flippfly pushes to drive that variety for players. At $9.99 it’s certainly enjoyable and it’s in competition for Steam’s Greenlight service, hopefully they continue to generate votes to reach a wider audience and really bring in the income that allows them to invest in experimentation at a larger scale.