My swallow-like craft flits between the towering mountains and ominous ruins. I dance between patches of sun and shadow, trying to outpace the coming night. I feel graceful and swift, free as the bird my craft so prettily imitates.
Then I lose focus for two seconds and smear myself all over the place.
Sighing, I pick the controller back up and try again, with a smile on my face.
The gameplay of Race The Sun is simple enough – your ship moves forward at great speeds, and you bank left or right to collect pickups and to avoid becoming part of the landscape. All the while, the sun is setting, and your solar-powered craft needs to avoid the ever expanding shadows in order to keep pushing forward. A simple challenge with the aim of getting the best high-score you can.
Complexity is added as you level up, caused by completing challenges (go 50,000 meters, grab 12 shiny thing in one run). New levels introduce new pickups and powerups, score multipliers and the like. Most coveted will be the ones that cause the sun to go backwards, reascending into the sky, giving you a few more minutes to keep going. You’ll need to grab as many of these as you can to stay in the game.
The game is split into sections, each getting more difficult. The first usually contains static scenery for you to dodge, the second introduces a few dynamic pieces (brightly coloured red so you can spot and prepare for them). By the fifth level, things are a cacophony of moving parts, collapsing buildings and twitch reflexes. It’s a relief to see the expanse of emptiness that symbolises the end of each section, and a crushing disappointment to be side-swiped at that moment by a rolling boulder you failed to notice.
Interestingly, Race The Sun is not procedurally generated as one might imagine. Instead, it only offers one ‘official’ track every 24 hours. For the day, you compete against an online scoreboard to prove your skills. Then the next day, the board is reset and you try it all again on a different arrangement of scenery, the previous one never to be seen again. It’s a bit of a let down to play the same track over and over again, but it makes it fair for those who actually want to compete for the leaderboard.
For those of us who like variety in our endless runners, there is hope! Race The Sun offers a level editor and an array of user-created tracks. They are varied, as user-content is wont to be, from amazing to terrible, but there is no dearth of levels to try. Personally though, it would be nice if there was a way of saving official tracks so that I could play them later.
Race The Sun is a special kind of pretty, one crafted from a greyscale world dominated by geometric shapes and the occasional flash of colour, backlit by an impressive sunset. It has a lovely charm to it. Shadows contrast nicely with the rest of the landscape, making it easy to see the path of least resistance (which is not the same as the ‘safest’ path).
With all endless runners, the appeal lies in getting those few extra points, getting past those few extra obstacles on each run. Trying to see what lies over the horizon. It needs to be something you can pick up at will, dive into with commitment to anything except the challenge, and then put down until you need to scratch the itch again.
Race The Sun does this very nicely, and is a lovely little game I keep coming back to for more.