Review: Race The Sun by Flippfly

February 14, 2014 | By | Add a Comment

Stay in the light, or you risk being cast adrift in darkness.

Such is the premise of Race the Sun, the new 3D flyer-runner effort from developer Flippfly.  This is a game with a simple proposition: your airship is solar powered, so stay in the sun or you will slow to a stop, and the game will end.

In this game, the Sun is your raison d’etre.

Race The Sun - DLV Fast Future

Race The Sun – DLV Fast Future

There are many complications within this simple recipe, such as obstacles of various sizes, a gamut of power-ups strewn about (some in very inconvenient places), and oh yes, the Sun’s setting.

As soon as the game starts, the Sun is speeding towards the horizon at a steady clip.  Picking up star-shaped “Boost” power-ups gives your craft a short burst of incredible speed, but more importantly it “reverses the clock” and raises the Sun in the sky by some degrees, delaying what was before an eventuality.  Playing it safe and avoiding difficult, obstacle dense areas may be relaxing, but that also means you won’t likely see any “Boost” power-ups.  The easy route leads to inevitable death.

Race The Sun - Boost Power Up

Race The Sun – Boost Power Up

Other power-ups include the “Tris”, which is a score multiplier that works in tiers of five.  The more of these you collect, the faster your score will ramp up as you race through “regions” or levels.  Whether that is as important as the distance you’ve traveled before your demise depends on what you prize most about your gaming experience: Do you enjoy boasting of an impossibly high score, or do you revel in knowing you’ve peered deep into a game, going further than others?

Race The Sun - Moving Red Cubes

Race The Sun – Moving Red Cubes

For either play style, the plethora of additional power-ups and upgrades for your ship are essential, but wisely the game doles them out based on achievements earned.  In this way, your experience will get richer and deeper as you unlock more options, allowing you to navigate each region in ways not previously possible and earning more “Tris” while discovering new areas.  Don’t let the control scheme fool you, as it clearly lays out your ship having the ability to move up and down or jump, but only after you’ve unlocked these features.

Race The Sun - Void

Race The Sun – Void

The flight characteristics of your ship will take some getting used to, where there’s a slight amount of inertia as you maneuver and change direction, not to mention a critical need to master how to execute (or avoid executing) a barrel-roll.  After you get used to the controls, the ship is a joy to fly, with the rush of watching deadly structures whiz by as you deftly weave between them for an extra power-up its own sweet reward.

Race The Sun - Toppling Structures and Missiles

Race The Sun – Toppling Structures and Missiles

“Deadly” is quite an apt descriptor for these obstacles, where they range from static structures in various sizes and formations; to moving objects that march in unison hell-bent on crushing you; to towering, blank-faced skyscrapers that are toppling right on top of you while they cast long and debilitating shadows.  You will not likely progress far until more power-ups and ship upgrades have been unlocked, since they add quite the arsenal of utility and maneuverability to your ship.  Even then, there are no easy routes to take with these carefully designed regions, where your choice is either high-risk-high-reward nightmare of close calls or beguilingly “safe” areas with a hidden, deadly mass of shadows that quickly sap your speed, and thus, your life.  Charting a course between these two choices, you will still need to be mindful of the ever descending Sun, and your constant need to find and pick up “Boosts” to stave off the inevitable.  It is indeed very easy to get caught up with ones own daredevil antics, only to watch your one and only sunset in this world mark your cold and lonely doom.  This renders purposeful safe play all but impossible, as you are forced to traverse levels laterally in search for hidden “Boosts” off the beaten path.  It makes for tense and nail-biting game play, with each run often peppered with outbursts of joy mixed with surprised anguish.

Race The Sun - Apocalypse -  Intersecting Rows of Rolling Polyhydra

Race The Sun – Apocalypse – Intersecting Rows of Rolling Polyhydra

Race the Sun wears its elegant, simple aesthetic on its sleeves, with a look very reminiscent of early arcade and computer games just coming to grasp with 3D or vector graphics.  The procedural generated levels, with its interplay of light, shadow, and shapes moving at blinding speeds, renders an effect both hauntingly beautiful and dizzying at once.  If it weren’t for the constant threat of impending doom, one could almost enjoy the serene scenery.  The score matches the look and feel of the game perfectly, reinforcing the lonely, desolate nature of the game world with quiet synth interludes while punctuating each near miss with crescendos.  The overall atmosphere invites one for long spells of repeated play sessions, producing a trance-like state of “flow” most other games strive but never could induce.

Race The Sun - Apocalypse -  Structures Being Destroyed

Race The Sun – Apocalypse – Structures Being Destroyed

The game includes a full featured editor called Simplex World Creator, letting you craft and share level designs without ever leaving the game client itself.  There is even a very unique way to consume user generated levels built into the game: portal structures will transport you to a different level for short stints, and the particular level you’re set to is randomly selected from all the levels you’ve downloaded, which makes for a perfect way to combine the normal game with your tailored list of favorites.  The in-house “Apocalypse Mode” is not to be missed, as is the currently featured level “DLV Fast Future” with its neon purple color palette straight out of an 80’s synth pop album cover.

There is something hauntingly beautiful about Flippfly’s take on the “run” genre, where by definition speeding headlong towards a nonexistent finish line is a given, not a choice.  By adding a setting Sun that acts as both salvation and doomsday clock, Race the Sun instills a certain sadness during each play session; that no matter how well you do, inevitably the Sun will set, sounding a death knell to your journey.

You can buy Race The Sun and read about Flippfly here.


Category: Action, Arcade, Linux, Mac, PC, Racing, Reviews, Sci-fi, Steam

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