I have to say that this year it has seemed pretty quiet for game releases from the big publishers, especially during a year where the next gen systems are set to be released. One thing that I’ve been about to count on is the steady flow of new indie game titles from smaller developers trying to stand out in the crowd. So new from Flippfly comes a little gem called Race the Sun.
The basic premise in Race the Sun is you control a small, solar-powered vehicle trying to make it as far as you can, staying in sunlight as best you can, through 25 levels before the sun sets and you lose power. As you race through the areas you also have certain goals to complete, such as collecting a certain number of power ups, doing a barrel roll a certain number of times, clearing a certain number of levels in a round, or reaching a certain score. Completing these goals will level up your ship and unlock items or ship enhancements to be used in game. This leveling system has been used before in other games and works well, but I found some of the goals to be a lot tougher than they should be, especially when you are still at a low level.
As you level up the ship, you will find that the unlocked enhancements and power ups will be key to making it farther in the game. They come in all forms, from being able to jump then slowly glide along and hopefully find a spot that looks safe enough to land, ones that push the sun higher into the horizon, to power-ups that allow you to collect score multipliers and other power ups easier without having to worry about being right on top of them. You do need to be careful, as if you even graze an object lightly you lose most (if not all) of your score multipliers.
So far, it may sound like a walk in the park – but it isn’t. Trust me, you will be gnashing your teeth at times when you miss a turn, or get stuck in a alleyway on the map that is hidden in shadows. In this game shadows are not you friend because even if the sun is high in the sky, if you stay hidden from the sun too long, your ship will lose power and it will be game over. So when you get to later levels you will find more of taller structures that will cast huge shadows down across your path. Don’t get me wrong – the game is difficult, but not so much that it makes you want to quit. Instead, is has more the opposite effect, where you want to try again and again to reach that next level or to achieve the next goal in your list.
For those who think “Oh I can just memorise the map, then I’ll know what is around the next bend,” think again, because the world maps reset every day, which is a great feature for endless replayability. Also later on in the game, you will come across special portals that will take you to user-created maps that you can take to see what fiendish designs other people have come up with.
The level creator is built into the game, and can be accessed by going to “Players Worlds” then to “My Worlds”. Here you can either modify an existing world, or start from scratch. The creator program doesn’t have that high of a learning curve, plus the Flippfly website has plenty of videos showing how to approach building a good level. I have to admit that I had trouble at first trying to locate the creator section, and it took a visit to the developer’s website forums to find out where exactly it was.
After you hit level 6 you will be able to participate in multiplayer co-op, where at the end of your game you share your final score over Twitter or Facebook, and someone can continue on from that point until finally someone makes it to the end, like a relay race. Then the score is submitted to the Team Leaderboards for all to see. Later levels hold a few more surprises for people but honestly I had trouble just getting to level 6. However, the game is addictive and I will keep trying!
Graphically the game starts off looking rather simple, with basic 3D shapes, but they begin to evolve the farther you get into the game. The game reminded me a lot of the old Star Fox games where you were piloting your ship through obstacles, which is not a bad thing in my mind. I do wish there was a bit more color to the game, though. I know they are going for a certain look so I can look over that to some extent, but when you’ve seen one greyish cube you’ve seen them all. The game does impart a good sense of speed, but I found myself losing my timing and crashing often.
While you are zooming through the levels you will be treated to groovy trance tunes which fit the game nicely. The tunes from the game will be available eventually from Flippfly’s website under your account. As far as sound effects, there really aren’t that many, but what you do hear fits well. Sometimes less is more.
Race the Sun is a fun endless runner of sorts that I can see making its way to other platforms in the future. It is looking for votes to get Greenlit on Steam, and I’d recommend promoting it. The price is slightly high at $10 right now, but it is DRM-free and available for PC, Mac, and Linux users.