Race the Sun is a simple game. Its entire gameplay is very tightly focused on one very specific premise – racing the sun. You fly in a solar craft, which is essentially a plane that is powered by the sun, and race towards the horizon, chasing after the sun before it can set and you run out of power. If you are a fan of leaderboards and competing with friends then Race the Sun is perfect.
Naturally there are a few things to bear in mind, first of which is the landscape that you will be weaving your way through at breakneck speed, rarely ever missing an obstacle by more than a few inches. Each landscape has different regions, each more difficult than the last, that you progress through by completing them in order. The make-up of the landscape changes every day and there are daily leaderboards for you to compete against yourself, your friends, or the public.
Next you need to be looking out for glowing blue pyramids which are your ticket to high scores. For every five of these that you collect your combo multiplier will increase, significantly increasing you score, but if you collide with an object in such a way that you do not die (sideways, for example), your multiplier will drop. If you hit an object head-on you’ve died in a large explosion, but on the plus side it’s game over and you can compare your score with others. Collecting the glowing blue pyramids is really the key to high scoring runs but ship control and being able to dodge quickly is almost as important.
It’s usually the more difficult regions that tend to be full of moving objects that you will need to weave around, in addition to the stationary obstacles. Sometimes you need to slot through a gap in a wall of cubes that are rolling sideways and other times you will take a jump that leads to platforms appearing for you to fly over.
All these objects also happen to cast shadows and, being solar powered, your ship doesn’t really like that. If it is in shadow for too long its short power storage will deplete, leaving you motionless. This isn’t that much of a concern in easy areas but when it does become a concern later in the game, the brief moment of panic is sudden and probably hilarious to anyone who’s watching you play.
Then there are power-ups that unlock as you level up. The first reverses the sun’s progress by a small amount and gives you a speed boost, while the second is one that stays in your inventory until you use it, allowing you to jump, which is handy for avoiding unanticipated architecture.
You level up by completing one of the three challenges shown to you before starting a game, each of which will give you a point, which eventually add up to an increase in level. You can also unlock upgrades for your ship, the earliest one being a magnet that pulls collectibles to your ship from further away.
The progression system and power-ups do add a little to the game but it’s clear that the game’s development was dominated by a laser-like focus on fast, thrilling gameplay that comes best in short bursts, and it seems that Flippfly have nailed it. The experience is driven by a “just one more go” mindset due in no small part to every single crash being down to one of your own mistakes, whether you undershot when turning or you just anticipated the landscape badly. You never die unless it’s your fault, so the immediate thought upon losing is “Oh! I could’ve avoided that, I’ll just have one more go…” and it’s one that meshes perfectly with the game’s design.
Races are quick and butt-clenchingly tense at times, it’s just one button press before you’re racing again, and the leaderboards allow you to quickly compare with other people’s scores before having another turn. Race the Sun is delicately engineered to be as addictive and as easy to have “just one more go” as possible. Its absolute focus on quick, blisteringly tense racing is evident and welcome as it provides the perfect environment for a score-based competition with friends.