There’s lots of things you can race against. Cars, karts, planes, bicycles, people and critters on foot, or even just the clock. The difference between those other opponents and the sun is that the world will never stop spinning and the sun will set eventually. You’re racing against utter futility, but the trick is to see how long you can last while not leaving a smoky cloud of debris against the side of one of the hundreds of obstacles that litter the terrain between you and the sunset.
Race the Sun originally started out as a freebie endless runner on Kongregate, but a successful Kickstarter campaign has allowed it to grow into something much bigger. The basics of the game, which is a high-speed flight in a solar-powered airship, low over the ground on an endless plain littered with simple geometric obstacles that zip by faster and faster until you eventually meet one head-on, remains unchanged. Two major new additions expand the game into its upcoming new form, breathing life into what was originally a fun but sterile experience.
The first big addition is movement. Instead of simply sitting there in the way, objects can now cause endless headaches and ship explosions by rolling, falling, or even exploding in a momentarily-blinding flash of light. This also allows for some multi-tiered course design as ramps shoot the ship onto platforms that flip into place just in time to create a path to long strings of point bonuses. Other places have solid walls that look like instant death until one opens up to reveal a thin passage through, or less kindly have columns fall from either side of walled paths that need fancy zig-zag flying to avoid. The addition of basic movement has opened up a world of possibilities in course design, and the community has only just started to work with it.
The second upgrade was the addition of the Simplex World Creator as part of the game, which is the same tool Flipfly use to create Race the Sun’s levels. Using a small number of simple geometric shapes, it’s possible to stretch, squash, link, and animate the basic world building blocks into just about anything you’d care to design, within certain complexity limits. I haven’t poked into the editor much, to be honest, but there’s a good tutorial at the Flipfly web site and the possibilities seem endless.
What I spent my time doing was racing the sun, which is an utterly unforgiving bastard. It keeps on dropping to the horizon at a steady pace, and the lovely orange/red glow of sunset means the ship will be running out of power soon. Tris are scattered around the terrain tempting you to fly far to close to danger, but the points and bonus multiplier they give is too tempting to ignore. Speed boosts gain more time by pushing the sun back up into the sky a little while making it harder to avoid a high speed death, and while the jump power-ups can be used a single time it’s hard to collect points when they’re on the ground and you’re temporarily flying above it all. Even if you memorize a good path through the course, the levels are randomly generated each day so today’s perfect run is gone tomorrow. Even in its current beta form, Race the Sun is a fantastically stylish endless runner that constantly has you on the edge of your seat, dodging like mad while weighing the risk of chasing points against the need for safety and the extra distance it might bring, if only you can avoid cratering against a wall. Most races end in fiery shrapnel, but even the very few that don’t will see the sun win in the end. No matter how it ends, however, it will have been one hell of a run.