UFG Goes Hands on With Race The Sun!

In the past I’ve played my fair share endless running games and for whatever reason they don’t tend to hold my attention. Not sure if it’s because of the fact that there is no actual way to win, just a high score to reach or because there isn’t much to them beyond dodging obstacles while moving in one direction. Either way, I’d grow bored with them rather quickly. That wasn’t the case with Flippfly’s Race the Sun, a new “endless” title.

The premise is simple; you fly a solar powered craft that can only stay in the air as long as it is in direct sunlight. The challenge is that the sun is continually setting so you have to race to keep up with its rays. In order to keep up, you have to maneuver around objects, stay out of the shadows, and collect boosts along the way. Again, based on what I’ve seen of the game and the genre as a whole, I expected it to be worth playing…just not for a long period of time. What I didn’t expect was to be so hooked as to lose track of time; hours after starting it up, I was still telling myself “just one more try”.

I think most of the fun has to do with how attributes are unlocked, changed and/or moved around.  To better explain this, let me walk you through my first experience playing Race the Sun. Upon starting the game, I was “flown” into the first area of my flight with little to no warning. All I knew was that I was supposed to fly forwards while dodging large, solid shapes. After flying around for a bit, I noticed blue floating holograms that I later discovered were to be collected for points. After a few minutes or so, my game ended due to the sun setting. I figured I’d had done well because I didn’t crash into anything (and I collected a lot of the blue holograms). The next screen that popped up showed my score, how far I’d gone, and more. Simple right?

That’s when the game decided to let me know that there was more to it than what I had just done. Because I had scored a decent amount of points, I had unlocked an upgrade for the game – I didn’t even know there was an upgrade system. My upgrade produced a new type of hologram, called a boost, that had the ability to reverse time. It is described as a time reversal  but what it does is speed up your ship whenever you fly through it, getting you closer to the sun and allowing for more time to play. Playing again, I was able to get much farther through the game’s areas (think one linear map with multiple sections acting as stages) as I did a pretty good job of keeping up with the sun. Getting to latter sections of the level revealed new environmental elements like moving shapes, secret portals, and collapsing platforms that fell into place, forming bridges. The speed at which my ship flew and the surprising introduction of a new obstacle often resulted in me crashing into a wall. Then I’d be taken back to the score screen to see how well I did and if I’d unlocked anything.

At first, I didn’t like the concept of not being able to go very far without unlocking more items. There was no choice but to fail when starting out, no matter how good I was. What I didn’t  realize was that the game was slowly revealing its more complex self, which pushed me to keep playing. Before long I had unlocked a multiplier that would increase my points based on how many blue holograms I picked up, a green hologram that allowed me to jump over obstacles, and more. The same thing was happening with the environment. Each advancing flight manifested new obstacles and  landscapes. One area showed rockets being launched into the distance that eventually landed in my flight path and exploded upon impact. If I was too close to the explosion the blinding light would…well, blind me making it easier to run into another obstacle. Basically, what I’m saying is that what annoyed me at first (the gradual unlock of gameplay elements) became my main reason to keep going. That’s not to say that the game wasn’t fun; it felt great to able to avoid a collision by mere inches before boosting off of a ramp and flying over a mountain towards the sun.

I don’t want to go too far into my time with the game as it’s still in beta (and this isn’t my review). I do want to point out a couple cool game mechanics though. Every day the map changes to a new design, meaning you’ll always see something different with repeated play. Not only that, but since each new map requires a new leaderboard, the names are locked in daily before a new board is set up. For once it’s possible to be at the top of a leaderboard and stay there. The last cool mechanic is the option to make your own maps, though this isn’t completely implemented just yet. I did, however, see a custom map that changed the perspective from a third person view (behind the ship) to a top-down one instead. All of these things add to the life of the game in rather cool ways. And, since the maps change every day and there are custom maps to download, it’s possible to experience a new “flight” every time you play.

Race the Sun has surprised me with how fun an endless flying game can be. The slow peal of game layers adds to the experience in a profound way. Because they lock in the leaderboard placements, Flippfly has successfully reinstated the appeal of earning a high score; something that was previously unique to classic arcade games. Again, this isn’t my review of the game. However, I think everyone should at least try out the beta. As it stands, Race the Sun is a very fun and additive game to play!

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