Endless-running games aren't really all that new when you look at the grand scheme of things. Games like Bit.Trip Runner have shown up all over the indie landscape, even in the flash game market. Race the Sun, created by indie developer Flippfly, branches off from the traditional formula and offers a few new components that set Race The Sun apart from other games in the genre.
Race the Sun - Gameplay
In Race the Sun, players operate a solar-powered ship through endless levels, dodging obstacles and attempting to race the sun. Players collect tris, which are blue pyramid-shaped collectibles that raise the player's multiplier and thus raise their overall score. As the player moves through the level, dodging obstacles and collecting power-ups, the sun is steadily going down, making it more and more dangerous for the player to be in shadowy areas losing energy and being at risk of running out of power, thus ending their run.
Power-ups can turn the tide of each level, however, including a boost that makes the sun rise instead of the set for a short time and a jumping powerup that allows players to jump over obstacles. When players begin to Race the Sun, they start at level 1, with various goals to complete, such as completing a certain number of regions without colliding with obstacles, collecting amounts of tris, and more. As they complete these goals, they unlock enhancement slots, which allow the player to add enhancements to increase their odds of progressing further.
These enhancements include increasing the number of jump powerups that can be held for use later in the run, as well as a battery enhancement to allow players to travel further in shadow without running out of energy. These enhancements can change how well the player progresses through the endless runs and will be more than necessary in order to complete some of the more complex achievements, such as having a score over ten million points before ending the run. Check out this video on Race the Sun for an overview before reading further.
Race the Sun - Extra Game Modes
The steam version, which is the version I reviewed (playable on PC, Mac, and Linux) has an option that increases the replay value of the game exponentially. The Steam Workshop is fully supported and enables players to create levels of increasing difficulty in order to give a variety of challenges and experiences both visually and in terms of gameplay.
There is also Apocalypse mode, which is an insane difficulty that is made for Race the Sun players who have begun to outgrow the regular difficulty of the standard Race the Sun mode. Apocalypse mode adds a level of frantic insanity to the game that is both frustrating and addicting. I personally found the standard mode to be a relaxing experience, whereas Apocalypse mode was more of a challenge and something for people who want to sharpen their skills and senses.
The gameplay of Race the Sun is heavily polished and smooth; however, I find that the generation of the levels (which changes every 24 hours) can, at times, be a bit unfair. You may play one day, and Region 1 is a piece of cake; then the next day, you play, and your ship starts in a minefield of danger. It was likely planned this way, but for the casual player, it could be considered a steep difficulty spike that is woefully unnecessary. Now let's consider the graphics, which are (in my opinion) a truly shining point in Race the Sun.
Race the Sun - Graphics
At first glance, the art style and graphics seem very minimalistic. The first area is in black and white with shades of grey, and it is difficult to see the game as anything more than a minimalistic indie runner title. However, as you begin to break into it, the setting of the sun brings all sorts of colors with it, as well as varying obstacles such as lasers and more. The portal worlds (which are unlocked by completing goals), as well as the workshop levels (which can also serve as portal realms from time to time) are another story entirely.
Their designs are completely different, giving a feeling as though you are truly in another world with varying colors and effects. The obstacles change as well depending on where you are, so going into a portal world not only gives you a different visual experience but also gives you the challenge of figuring out what is dangerous and what isn't.
Where the graphics are a problem are in the instances where the lighting and shadow can, at times, throw off the player's depth perception and even cause obstacles to fade into the background scenery until you find yourself slamming into them at breakneck speeds. The visuals can also take some getting used to and can be harsh on the eyes at first; however, after playing a few rounds, it is easy to look at the game and begin to pick apart some of these issues and get into a firm and easy groove.
Race the Sun - Audio
The audio in Race the Sun is another stellar addition to this game that aids in the relaxing atmosphere. It is a very laid-back sort of sound that, paired with minimalistic graphics, at first conveys a relaxing tone. As the player progresses through the game and gets to more intense regions, the music seems to change in order to reflect that intensity by building up the rhythm and giving the player a sense of urgency. This can, at times, lead to failure if the player becomes distracted by the music and allows it to veer them off the prepared course.
As such, I found myself doing better with the sound off and playing the game with my own music in the background or even, at times, with no music at all. While the audio is a great addition to both atmosphere and the art style, it can be a hindrance to the game overall.
Race the Sun is a fantastic game to kill time with. In fact, gamers could easily get hundreds of hours in attempting all of the user-generated levels as well as attempting to get ahold of all the achievements. While it does have some issues, it is definitely worth the $10 price tag on Steam. Any gamer that loves a challenge will definitely enjoy Race the Sun.
TechRaptor reviewed Race the Sun on PC via Steam with a code provided by the developer. It is also available on iOS, macOS, and Windows. This review was originally published on 05-08-2014. While care has been taken to update the piece to reflect our modern style guidelines, some of the information may be out of date. We've left pieces like this as they were to reflect the original authors' opinions, and for historical context.