Take to the skies, soar through the air avoiding obstacle in your solar powered drone, but beware of the inevitable end, the sun will set, your power will diminish and you will crash to the ground…. Well unless you’re in that nifty Nighthawk that runs on Moonlight.
Race the Sun certainly looks interesting, when I first got hold of the title I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but within a few minutes it’s clear enough that this is an endless runner, anyone who’s dabbled with mobile gaming will know how it goes, you start off a near endless journey only limited by your own skill and in this case, how long the sun stays in the sky.
Initially you’ll crash your drone quite a few times, hitting obstacles or running out of time, but after about half an hour, things will have opened up somewhat. Making a few runs will build up enough XP to level up your craft, and things start to take shape when you can collect pick-ups such as the green jump icon, or the yellow time pick-up which pushes the sun just a little higher above the horizon.
The aim of the game is simple enough, fly…. Initially you might make a few stages, but as you get used to your surroundings and what sort of route you can take, you’ll find it’s easier to start grabbing those yellow icons and extended your sunlight. This means there’s more time to pick-up the blue Tris XP orbs, level up and hopefully last a few seconds longer.
As with all endless runners, the early stages start to get a little tedious. When you’re used to cruising along on a shoe-string trying to stretch the last glimmer of sunlight into a few more precious points, the easier first stages seem a lifetime ago, and having to retread your footsteps time and time again just to reach that awkward stage which finished off your last attempt, is never an exciting prospect. But Race the Sun mixes things up a little, well actually every 24 hour it mixes things up a lot as the levels, layout, obstacle and all else is randomly generated every 24 hours, so while a mobile game might try to tempt you to return every hour or so, Race the Sun instead knows it’s limits, it’s a fun for an hour title that is far more fun if you then wait and return a day or so later for a whole new challenge.
And challenging it certainly is, sometimes you’ll fall lucky, levels dotted with ramps making the barrel roll a simple manoeuvre are always a welcome site as are those with large structure that can be seen from distance and easily avoided, the handful of challenges are easy enough at first, completing said barrel rolls, or making a perfect run on a single section.
But as you play more and more, you’ll realise these easy sections are few and far between, and coming up against windmills which only leave you a narrow passage to pass through, or large complexes that are only easily passed with trial and error while discovering the safest route, it’s a clever system that ties together with the 24 hour refresh, meaning when you do play, you want to give it that hour or so, yet when you tire of the layout, you know it’s not that long before everything feels fresh again.
Presentation feels familiar to any other endless runner, but when you pass the initial menu’s it feels like this is what an endless runner on consoles should look and play like.
Graphically it’s basic, but in a high quality console way, there’s a limited draw distance (otherwise those hard to pass areas would be far too easy if you could see them too far in advance) and the diminishing sunlight set’s ominous shadows behind ever obstacle ahead, avoiding the shadows then helps to avoid the obstacle and keeps the speed of your craft up and the points rising. However that’s just the early sections, to reach later stages you’ll need to collect plenty of the yellow pick-ups to extend time, but hitting these also increases your speed, that’s great for racking up the points, but it’s also incredibly difficult as you go fast and faster.
Movement is slick and smooth with everything zipping past fast enough without the boosts, there’s no slow down and even at faster speeds it’s hard to pick fault and there’s so many small details such as the stretching shadows of the setting sun and the small power meter on the reverse of the craft that gives you an instant view of your speed (almost as though blazing past obstacles wasn’t certain enough for you.
Worlds aren’t always as simple as the ground based levels either, you’ll soon be flying across moving platforms that unfold only a second before you cover them, and then there’s the asteroid style space setting which makes judging distances and movement even more difficult, but also incredibly fun thanks to the smooth control and feeling of accomplishment as you whizz through near impassible tunnels thanks to some skillful judgement and more often than not, a lot of luck.
Sound didn’t quite hit the mark in the same way, the ping of picking up the Tris or power-up boost/time extension are clear enough and each pickup has it’s own distinct noise, but I found race the sun as one of the few games I wouldn’t mind putting some music on in the background, it’s not to say that the in-built soundtrack isn’t good, but I just didn’t find it as memorable as some titles, especially endless runners which often have a soundtrack that becomes embedded into your ear-drum. thankfully the smooth control of the drone and the visual feedback of shadows and progression more than make amends.
Race the Sun might have been out for four years on PC, 3 on PS4 and 2 on Wii U and iOS, but if you’re yet to experience it, then the Xbox One version is finally here and well worth exploring for the modest price of only £7.99, It’s fast, fluid and fun with a new challenge every day you play, find it too tough, then the next day it could be a perfect experience, with the next a great opportunity to level up and another a tough challenge, It’s like a whole new game every time you play, and while it’s not going to keep you playing for hours upon end, it’s always inviting to return to time and time again.