It’s a long flat plain and the world stretches on forever. The vast expanse of white is littered with white-ish debris under a white sun slowly sinking down towards the white horizon as the sunset slowly saturates the sky with color. When the sun drops out of sight, the solar powered ship has nothing left to keep it running, but that’s fine. By then its latest attempt at flying forever has most likely been brought to a premature end by crashing headlong into a a random chunk of terrain. You’ve got to move fast and with great precision to race the sun, and most errors will see the ship turned into a cloud of debris arcing across the plain.
Race the Sun is a unique entry into the endless runner genre. You’ve got an aircraft that flies a few feet off the ground, camera hovering a comfortable distance behind and pointed straight towards the horizon. You fly forwards over a plain and can move left and right with no boundaries, grabbing as many pickups as possible while trying not to crater the ship against the hundreds of obstacles littering its path. It’s hard enough to thread a course through a tight opening towards a pickup set between two monolithic walls, but then things start moving.
The first area is a nice warmup, but from area two and onwards things start getting tricky as blocks rise and fall, or do a roll to the right that shifts the gap between them away from where you thought you’d be aiming. Balls roll across the plains, missiles rain down in a blinding flash, flying saucers shoot down red beams of evil, and in general nothing on this planet seems happy about how incredibly fast you’re racing.
Getting to the really crazy areas is going to take some leveling up, though. At first you just race, getting as much distance as you can, but there are goals to achieve that level up the ship. Travel a certain distance either in a single run or cumulatively, fly a level perfectly, complete a level only turning left, glance off a set number of walls without exploding, etc. New abilities and power-ups get added as the levels accumulate, at which point Race the Sun starts turning into a real test of precision and reflex.
The first pickup to be added is the Tri, which is a blue triangle in a circle. After the ship levels up a bit more the Tris turn into the score multiplier, with every five Tris adding 1x. Then power-ups get tossed into the mix, with the first being speed boost. This ship is already traveling fast but nowhere near fast enough to prevent the sunset, so the speed boost not only makes for several tense seconds of very careful flying but also pushes the sun back up the sky a little. Then bonus areas get activated, giving the formerly-inert gates a green swirly portal, and completing the section not only does very nice things for the score multiplier but also puts the sun back to its starting point.
Every new addition changes the way Race the Sun is played, making for rounds that are evenly divided between chasing goals and surviving as long as possible. Memorizing the perfect line is only going to go so far, though, because the world resets every day. A successful chain of high-scoring levels from yesterday is good all day long, but today? Not so much, it’s an all-new challenge now. Every day gets fresh leaderboards, so there’s always a new chance to crack the top 10.
Like all games, higher scores come with practice, but so does a feeling of repetition. Race the Sun isn’t truly random, but rather has levels put together from pre-built sets of obstacles. The earliest levels, which of course you’ll see the most of, quickly cycle through the available possibilities after a couple of days. Getting back the thrill of perfectly weaving through unfamiliar territory starts taking longer each game, and while the warp powerup can instantly teleport you to the end of a stage (if you find it), you bypass all the points and score multiplier you’d have earned. The best rounds then become the ones in which you sit through familiar territory that, despite being freshly arranged that day, is still threat-free home territory.
Of course, the solution to that is to roll your own levels with the included world editor. It’s the same thing Flipfly used to create the game, allowing players to take build items and roadblocks from simple geometric shapes and warp, enlarge, rotate, and animate them into whatever crazy setup takes their fancy, within certain limits of complexity. It looks to be a powerful tool but also one that, I have to admit, I didn’t spend any real time with. The fans have already started posting some fun creations to the Player Worlds tab, and there’s bound to be more on the way.
Race the Sun is very close to a perfect pick-up-and-play game, except for the bit where it’s very hard not to keep playing once you’ve started. A quick break easily turns into one more attempt, trying to plot a different course over the cluttered plains, maximizing Tri collection while minimizing the risk of turning into a cloud of debris. The sun is setting, but your aircraft is fast, and maybe this time you can successfully dodge, weave, jump, and collect your way to an endless day’s run across the infinite expanse of Race the Sun‘s alien worlds.