Race the Sun: iOS Game Review and Reflection
October 29, 2015
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“Who dares, wins” —David Stirling
Not to be confused with the 1996 movie, Race the Sun is a procedurally-generated endless-runner game where the player controls a solar-powered craft. The objective is simple enough: to maneuver around an eternal landscape of abstract obstacles and stay in the daylight for as long as possible as the sun is setting. As players make progress, unlocks that confer performance and cosmetic customisations become available, allowing players to fine-tune their craft to fit their play-style. To increase survivability and scoring, different power-ups can be collected as one is flying through a region: beyond the scoring multipliers, some give a speed boost, jumps and even a shield that saves a player from head-on collisions. The presence of power-ups, slightly more forgiving collision mechanics and the added challenge of having to outmaneuver the sun means that Race the Sun definitely has enough additions to make it stand out from the classic Flash game Cubefield, which similarly featured a craft being flown through an endless field of cubes. In comparison to the simplistic Cubefield, Race the Sun is remarkably entertaining and compels players to return, unlocking all twenty-five levels and vie for scoring supremacy in a world deadly, monochromatic obstacles.
- I was inspired to pick up Race the Sun after watching a Rage Quit video of it, and the page quote is directly inspired by said video. In my first few hours, I was not used to the controls on iOS: touching the screen is what’s needed to turn the craft, and one must touch the bottom to utilise a jump power-up (on PC, the controls are arrow keys and spacebar, which are more intuitive), but I’m more comfortable with the game now.
- After completing all of the objectives and reaching level 25, the name of the game is simply to last as long as possible using the vehicle configuration of one’s choice. While the “recommended” setup is magnet (for increased item pickup range), jumps (to store more jumps) and improved turning to decrease turn radius, the ship can be configured differently to simplify the completion of some objectives.
- Having all three slots available for power-ups makes Race the Sun somewhat easier than it was as seen in Rage Quit. Contrasting games like Cubefield, where collisions immediately result in death, Race the Sun is a little more lenient: only direct collisions cause death, while glancing collisions merely detract from one’s multiplier.
- The void is one of my favourite aspects of Race the Sun, being a space-like environment filled with multiplier-increasing pick-ups. It’s definitely more enjoyable than Cubefield owing to all of the different nuances.
- I read one review that cleverly stated Race the Sun to act as a metaphor for life itself. Paraphrased, it suggests that the spacecraft represent people as they pursue their dreams, which are fleeting and must be chased. Like how the space craft slows down in the absence of light, shadows of out own doubt slow us down, and numerous obstacles in the environment, some being obvious and others coming out of nowhere can stop one’s pursuit. Said review goes on to encourage users to get back up and keep trying, just like in real life. It’s not often I read reviews that are insightful, but there are exceptions. With the pair of iOS game reviews now done as promised, I’ll see if I can do a talk on Alto’s Adventure in the near future.
I picked up Race the Sun for iOS and have spent around six hours in-game. There are no tilt controls: touching the left and right sections of the screen allow one to steer their craft, and tapping the bottom of the screen when a jump is picked up will activate the jump. The simple controls work well enough for their part, but in my first few hours of gameplay, I had minor difficulties in making sharp enough turns to dodge close-up obstacles. However, once the steering mechanics were mastered, it was quite fun to complete the objectives and level up (ranging from simple ones that involve collecting a certain number of points or using a power-up a fixed number of times, to insanely difficult ones that require players make only left turns through three regions in a single run, or perform twenty barrel-rolls in one life). Over time, I reached Race the Sun‘s level cap, and the game at level twenty five even more enjoyable than it was while completing the objectives. Frustrations encountered earlier, such as the magnet’s range, numbers of jumps stored or turn radius disappear, allowing players to focus solely on getting the high score. Different game modes are also unlocked, with the diabolical Apocalypse mode and top-view maze runner, providing a different style of play for those looking for something a little different. Its near-infinite replay value, coupled with a refreshing, minimalistic appearance and simple mechanics means that Race the Sun is an excellent iOS game, well worth the 5.79 CAD.