Indie Game Review: Race The Sun
Is this game worth my time and money?
In terms of overall value, I would give this game a 9/10. Race The Sun takes literally no time to learn how to play, and is currently available on Steam for only $9.99. The enjoyment gained while playing this game is overwhelmingly worth the monetary and time cost. Furthermore, it is very easy to pick up on a whim and play a round or two.
You do not need to commit to playing through an entire scene/mission/level. Just boot this scalawag up, die as many times as you see fit, and put it down as soon as you want/can. There are no continuity issues that result, making the game perfect for short gaming breaks throughout the day. This means you'll probably end up playing it more often than your AAA games, furthering the value.
The closest widely accepted genre would be a racing game, but it literally makes me cringe to call it that. First off, you are not in a car, or anything lame like that, you are in a badass futuristic spacecraft looking thing that is capable of generating wormholes and all sorts of cool shit. Secondly, you're not racing anyone, you are racing a thing, spoiler alert, it's The Sun. If it sets, you die.
There are no other cars, no laps, no checkered flag. It's just you, The Sun, a rotating planet, and a veritable shitstorm of ostensibly sentient obstacles. All of this is procedurally generated and updated at least once a day, so you will never become bored with memorizing the environment. If I had to create a name for a new genre for this game, it would be something like Beautifully Abrasively Overstimulating Fun, but I doubt that will catch on.
Seriously, all you have to do is move the left joystick and hit one other button. Don't get all excited about boosting your trophy/achievement count though, first because steam doesn't play that shit, and second because this game gets ludicrously hard after just a few minutes. Yes, full controller support is enabled through Steam, which is a game changer.
These controls are exceptionally intuitive and smooth. I have never experienced any glitching, or anything else which would allow me to blame a single death on anything but my own ineptitude. There are not many things that teach this type of unwavering responsibility for one's actions.
So there you are, looking out into the sunset, when all the sudden, this epic spaceship thing blows past you, confirming a third dimension. Then you realize the camera started to follow the ship. Then you realize, oh shit, I should probably be doing something about this, there's a lot of obstacle looking things coming up. There's no tutorial, no text, not even any NPCs, you're just thrown into this brutal world with nothing but your instincts.
The only real incentive is an ambiguous score in the corner and delaying your imminent death. You are also obviously supposed to pick up those color-coded powerups, which you'll soon find do some pretty rad stuff. There aren't any quests or anything like that, but you can complete objectives to upgrade your ship, which allows you to take your frantic maneuvering to a previously inconceivable level. When you pick up the game on any other day, you'll soon notice that the world looks familiar, but everything has changed. You might find recognizable sequences of obstacles, but they will never appear in the same place. For this reason, the game remains incredibly difficult to master.
There is no story other than what you need to know to play. There are no cutscenes, no princess, no enemies, nothing. You are a ship, you are racing the sun, if it drops behind the horizon, you will die. That is all you need to know. The only text that appears happens between lives, telling you special tasks to complete to upgrade your ship. Even still, you are inexorably engaged in this minimalist plotline.
There is no Game+, because you can't really ever beat the game. That being said, you could probably play this game forever and still enjoy improving your skill set. I mean, if there were no other games in my backlog, I would be perfectly content playing this game until they made a sequel. I would say this about very few games.
There is a very real incentive to improve your ship to it's maximum awesomeness to figure out what lies beyond, and after this is complete, there is another even more debilitating state, dubbed Apocalypse mode, that can keep you busy for an undetermined amount of time. Again, because the game changes every day, it will become the source of infinite discovery and enjoyment.
There are two difficulty levels, Normal and Apocalypse mode. They both get consistently harder as time progresses, into infinity, but Apocalypse Mode makes Normal look like a leisurely stroll in a futuristic park. Each region contains a few slight difficultly spikes, but nothing that you haven't been at least partially equipped to overcome. For the most part, the game follows a natural difficulty progression.
There is one very real punishment for failure, you have to start over from the beginning. This happens very quickly, typically with the absence of a loading screen. This means the game only gets as hard as you can handle. You never get stuck anywhere, you just die and start over. It is very frustrating, but the result is that you are even more strongly committed to passing your previous high score.
This game is absolutely astonishingly beautiful, without the need for complex or overwhelming graphics. The landscape of the world is monochromatic, which makes the colorful pickups very easy to identify and attempt to collect. The animations are simple and exceptionally natural. Most of the intensive graphical renderings are centered around the Sun and light that it casts onto your world, which makes sense because the Sun is the most important element in the whole game.
Race The Sun is abundantly addictive. Do not be surprised when you start to have dreams about dodging collapsing stone tablets and chasing ambiguous flying birds. Since the game boots up in no time, and you can play a round in just a few minutes, you'll find yourself wanting to fire it up at even the most minimally convenient instances. Reoccurring sources of your failure will haunt you until they day you master them. When you finally do overcome these difficulty spikes, you will find yourself screaming at your television, provocatively announcing your glory. I cannot think of any type of person that wouldn't enjoy this game immensely.
This game redefines the racing genre because it actively combats the reason most people become bored with these games. In short, you are inherently unable to memorize the environment from day to day. The international leaderboards make no claim to an all time victor, since the game changes every single day. You are only compared to other people that have played the game while it was in the same configuration as when you played it. This makes you want to come back for more. If you don't like the game on a certain day, all you need to do is wait for the update countdown to wind down to zero. Boot up the game after this happens, and you'll never know what you're going to encounter.