We’ll stay out racing until the streetlights come on
Race the Sun is a 3D endless racer that’s as simple as it is cool: a high-intensity time trial through a life-or-death obstacle course that’s easy to play, wickedly challenging, and devilishly addictive. The game puts you at the helm of an extremely fast solar-powered ship that, although it looks like it could fly, actually just skims across the surface of a strange alien world in a never-ending race against the setting sun.
When the sun goes down, the power runs out and your ship grinds to a halt. The object, therefore, is to “race the sun” and make it as far as you can before darkness descends and the game comes to an end – and to avoid smashing headlong into anything along the way. Imagine driving a Formula One race car at top speed through a busy parking lot at your local mega-mall and you’ll have some idea of what’s in store. The only way to stay ahead of the sun is to go fast and take risks – and the more risks you take, the more likely it is you’re going to do a supersonic faceplant into a mountain.
The world of Race the Sun isn’t a “real” world so much as a great, wide-open arena packed with monochromatic, geometric objects to crash into: blocks, balls, pyramids and more, of all different shapes and sizes. As if they’re not bad enough just sitting there, the challenge becomes even trickier in later levels when they start to move, often in unison, meaning that the narrow passage that was directly ahead of you is suddenly a jink to the left, and you have about a half-second to either move over or start over.
You’ll also need to avoid shadows as much as possible – you’re driving a solar-powered ship, remember, and your backup battery has an extremely short lifespan. You’ll nab power-ups along the way that make the journey marginally less hazardous – speed boosts, jumps, crash recovery, that sort of thing – and pick up point-scoring “tris” as well. And that’s really it – steer left and right until you crash or the sun goes down. It’s as simple as it is fast.
But while Race the Sun doesn’t have a whole lot cooking in terms of gameplay complexity, I can just about guarantee that it will keep you coming back for more. Your level will increase as you accumulate “distance” over multiple sessions, unlocking new, more advanced power-ups and selectable ship upgrades that give you the tools you need to take on ever-increasing challenges. The game world is procedurally-generated and resets every 24 hours, as do the leaderboards, so the challenge remains fresh and every new day is a new chance to be number one.
Also cool is the asynchronous multiplayer mode, which allows you to share the results of a race through Twitter, Facebook, or a direct link as the first leg in a “relay.” Other players can then pick up where you left off, and once the race is complete the final result is shared on a separate multiplayer leaderboard, making for a unique form of cross-platform, team-based competition.
There’s also a fully-featured world editor that will let you create and share your own unique designs, and while there’s not a huge amount of player-generated content available just yet, some very interesting things are being done with it. And in a very nice touch, portals that eventually unlock in the “official” game world allow you to enter and play a level in a randomly chosen player-created world, after which you’ll be returned to the regularly scheduled race course – assuming you survive.
Some players might find that its underlying simplicity wears thin in a hurry, but I think it’s a blast. Race the Sun hearkens back to the days of old, when “don’t smash into anything” was enough of a reason to sink hour upon hour into a videogame, and despite its primitive graphics, it’s a starkly beautiful game that can actually be quite relaxing when you get into the groove – at least until you paste a wall at about a thousand miles an hour. Then drop a startled f-bomb and start all over again – just remember to check the clock now and then to be sure you don’t miss your bedtime too badly.