Review: Race The Sun (PS Vita)

Review-Race-The-SunThe next time you look out of the window and see dark, foreboding storm clouds gathering on the horizon, stop and think. Before you bemoan the lack of sunshine and consider booking a holiday to warmer climes, stop and think about the pilot of the lone craft in Flippfly’s latest PS4 and Vita title, Race The Sun. For you, a lack of sun means a chilly morning or wet clothes on the washing line. For that pilot, a lack of sunshine means certain death.

Taking the form of an endless runner, Race The Sun sees you assume to role of the nameless pilot, forging forever forwards towards the horizon and a setting sun, all the while dodging and weaving between the enormous surreal structures that litter the planet’s surface. There is no story here – the whole premise of Race The Sun is to get as far as you can, and score as many points as you can, before the sun sets and the solar-powered craft is rendered useless. This PS4 and Vita cross-buy release is – much like the recent Futuridium – a reimagining of a PC title from 2013, and one which has been given a slight spruce in the visual department and had several new game modes added. Race The Sun received favourable reviews upon its initial release and after playing this new version I can see why. Gameplay is fast, smooth and incredibly simple - your craft moves forwards automatically and the only controls you are bequeathed with are the left and right steering. There’s also a jump function, but I’ll come back to that. The game is almost mocking in its simplicity upon initial inspection – the craft moves forward at breakneck speeds, the sun slowly sets in the afternoon sky and all the while you are dodging this way and that between the geometric shapes that whizz past. As the sun gets lower on the horizon, the shadows cast by these obstacles grow longer and the sky grows darker and only then do you realize that the setting of the sun is also your countdown to an untimely demise.

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Collecting yellow crystals will magically push the celestial ball of fire back up into the sky, granting you a stay of execution…but the setting sun isn’t your only problem when it comes to surviving here: smashing into obstacles will destroy your ship instantly and mean you have to start again. Race The Sun kind of reminded me of the light cycle race in Tron – everything moves at ridiculous speed but once you get into the zone, you can pull off some outrageous feats of skill when dodging through the slimmest of gaps in the scenery. Sometimes gaps are only revealed when a piece of the obstacle moves as you approach, and other times…it’s just a wall. Happily, after a while the game grants you the ability to jump (via a green pick up) and this becomes an invaluable mechanic as you get further into the game and the stages become even more littered with bizarre and looming structures.

While survival in this odd landscape is paramount, Race The Sun isn’t all about racking up a massive score (naturally though, the game does include online leaderboards) – every session has a set of objectives which range from travelling through the air for a certain distance or colliding with objects a set number of times. Completing these objectives opens up new challenges and also allows for ship upgrades – a battery allows for you to stay in the shadows for longer, whilst a storage module grants the ability to store multiple jump crystals (which is handy for double jumping). Later on, warp portals will appear and travelling through them will whisk you away to a bonus level which is littered with the game’s point pick-up of choice – Tri. Tris are blue floating triangles that you are encouraged to pick up in order to increase your score multiplier level, and while initially it may seem that the whole Race The Sun experience is geared towards the collection of these triangles – do not be fooled. They are dotted around the levels in abundance and generally light the way in most stages…although occasionally they will be placed in front of a solid wall, so if your jump tank is empty…avoid! As you progress further and complete more objectives, other features will become unlocked – the ability to turn quicker and the ‘re-spawn’ pick-up is revealed. You’ll also be given a ‘magnet’ which increases the field around your ship so you don’t have to fly directly into pick-ups to collect them. Eventually, you’ll also unlock a couple of different play modes – one of which is a new take on the original game called Apocalypse…where the world is being destroyed by meteorites and the explosions will temporarily blind you. Most of the time, this will mean certain death as you careen into a wall without even knowing it. Start again. Crash. Start again. Crash. Start again…

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The thing is, again much like Futuridium, when you do hit a wall or the timer runs out/the sun sets…you’ll find yourself almost instantly hitting ‘retry,’ and that’s because Race The Sun is so playable and so addictive. The speed is phenomenal and the frame rate is glorious – on both PS4 and Vita, this game is a joy to play. Rarely does it feel unfair – if you hit a wall, it’s usually your own fault for not using a jump in the right place, or for taking the wrong path when presented with multiple forks.

The music is perfectly suited to the game, and changes accordingly as the sun gets lower in the sky and your quest to add more seconds of dying light to your game gets more frantic. One interesting feature is the way in which Race The Sun’s stages are re-worked every 24 hours, so you can never get too familiar with the layout of the initial stage. You may master it in a day and maybe grow tired of it…but in 24 hours it will be gone, and another random course will present itself for another day of frantic, super-fast dodging and Tri collecting. Visually, Race The Sun’s stylized graphics are reminiscent of early virtual reality simulators – all flat shaded and undetailed, but therein lies the appeal of this game – it almost feels like you’re playing the cover art of a sci-fi novel from the 1960s…and I love it for that.

Race The Sun (Gameplay)

Conclusion

This is yet another fantastic indie release for the Sony systems and features cross buy and (the now standard) cross-save functionality. It plays superbly, is ridiculously addictive, looks great and the added bonus of having a whole new world generated daily adds another facet of longevity to the experience. As the winter nights close in and the temperatures drop, you could do a lot worse than draw the curtains and Race The Sun.

Link: Race The Sun Official Website


Last Updated ( 06 November 2014 )  

Tom Charnock

A true connoisseur of failed and obscure console hardware, if Tom isn't extolling the virtues of the Jaguar CD's texture smoothing abilities or the Dreamcast's vast array of useless peripherals he's usually on Twitter asking where all the Super A'Can games are.

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