Indie Quickie: Race the Sun

It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

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What is it? An endless racer that has you piloting a sun-fueled aircraft across a futuristic landscape dotted with geometric obstacles that’ll smash you up real good, and shadows that’ll suck away all your solar juice. If the sun goes down, it’s game over.

Who made it and where can you get it? Race the Sun is the latest indie production from the Filippo brothers and their studio Flippfly. The PC/Mac/Linux game is available for $10 at flippfly.com/racethesun and has currently reached 50% approval on Steam Greenlight.

How much did we play? Since launch on Monday, I’ve put in another couple of hours with the full game on top of the time I spent playing the beta for my earlier preview (all my stats and profile data did transfer over). I have reached level 12 (out of 25) on the progression system and achieved a top score right around 900k.

Any technical concerns or hardware requirements you should know about? The game itself runs beautifully, but while using an Xbox 360 gamepad I have occasionally encountered issues with not being able to select certain menu headings using the analog sticks or the interface deactivating entirely unless I use a mouse. The game has also crashed a couple of times, but strangely only when attempting to quit out of the application.

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Why should you play it?

    • Daily Freshness: As was the case during the beta, the greatest attribute Race the Sun has going for it is its daily supply of new content. Every single day the game refreshes with a different procedurally generated level and a reset scoreboard of high scores to shoot for. After a few days the minimalist style of flat hues and simple level geometry–as visually striking as it is–does begin to blur the levels together with a sense of sameness, but that’s when you turn to the Simplex World Creator to create your own stages or just play those made by other users who may have a stronger knack for level design. The game’s community is never going to reach the heights of something like a LittleBigPlanet and its millions of custom levels to choose from, but already the community seems to be humming along pretty well as there are plenty of fun levels to try and rate, many of which are quite different and much more colorful and abstract than those provided by the developers. The promise of something new to see and play each and every day is a major selling point for sure.

    • Unlock This: If the daily level switch wasn’t enough, replay value is further extended by a progression system that keeps you flying after a steady stream of unlocks. By completing specific gameplay challenges – use power-ups a certain number of times, travel a set distance or achieve a specified score total in a single run, collide with a certain number of objects without crashing etc – you will rank up and gain access to some new piece of content, from new modes to additional power-ups to increases in the starting score multiplier to mods that will equip your ship with a magnet to suck up Tris (glowing triangle thingies collected for bonus points) from a distance or maybe even a larger battery pack to maintain power for longer while flying in the shade. You might intend to only play a run or two when you first log on to try the day’s new world, but once you see that carrot hanging from the stick in the form of a new challenge or level unlock it’ll become very difficult to pry yourself away from the flight controls. This is one exhilaratingly addictive game, folks.

    • Hardcore Apocalypse: Endless racers/runners are typically viewed as causal fluff for mobile devices, however Race the Sun is definitely built more for hardcore high score hunters. That doesn’t mean that the game is inaccessible or should intimidate less-skilled players; the pick-up-and-play simplicity should be immediately accessible for anyone who can steer a flying vehicle from side to side along a fixed horizontal plane. But to actually master the gameplay and pile up long travel distances and sky-high scores will require quick twitch reflexes, light touch, and a locked-in focus to recognize obstacle patterns and maintain constant awareness of your ship while simultaneously keeping an eye out for what pitfalls lay ahead. Eventually you will also unlock Apocalypse mode, which, on a scale of 1-10, amps the difficulty to about a 15. Seriously, you’ll need mad skillz just to clear a single region as hazards cover a much larger percentage of the terrain and falling meteors create blast clouds that will temporarily block your vision. I barely survived longer than 10 seconds on my first few attempts, and thus far I’ve only just managed to eek into the second region once. Hardcore indeed.

Parting Thoughts: Race the Sun might appear to be a simple casual experience for killing time and work productivity (I can’t say it won’t do the latter), but it really feels like more of a gamer’s game than the endless-running time wasters found in never-ending supply on tablets and smartphones. The game was a blast during the beta and so far is only more fun and challenging now that its complete array of features are in place. If you want a video game you can theoretically play anew every single day until sometime in the apocalyptic future when the real sun crashes into Earth and ends life as we know it, Race the Sun is the game for you.

[Update] As of December 9, 2013, Race the Sun is available on Steam. If you bought the game previously, a free Steam key should be available in your Flippfly account page. I also wanted to update this post to add that any progress made in the original release automatically imports into the Steam Cloud the first time the game is launched, and you’ll even receive retroactive achievements for previous accomplishments.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!