So… I’m a little excited for No Man’s Sky, set to be released at some point this year. This excitement has led me to Race the Sun, a game where you also fly a space craft. A tenuous link, and also the only preconception I had about this game. So when I first booted it up, what did I find?
Race the Sun is an arcade surface-flight game with procedurally-generated levels. Each day, a new series of levels are generated for you to, in turn, generate the highest score you can. That’s all there is to it really. This game belongs to an emerging genre I call “Achievement Arcade”. They exist mostly in the phone space and often vary wildly in style. They are arcade game with an extra layer of practical achievements. Generally they present three achievements for you to obtain in either a single run or multiple runs. When you “achieve”, another one takes its place. The reward for these achievements is levelling up or in-game currency to buy whatever.
Race the Sun, like most arcade games is very simple to play. You have to weave through a landscape of geometric shapes, accumulating points and boosting your multiplier. As you continue to fly, you move from zone to zone, each harder than the last. Hitting an object front-on destroys you and that’s the end of your run. You can move left and right and after some level gaining, jump with the right powerup.
The core concept of this game is the sun. Your ship is solar-powered and so you have to avoid the shadows cast by the large shapes scattered about the landscape. They slow you down and result in your run ending… I think. Actually, having never progressed past the fourth zone, I don’t think the shadows are yet to affect any part of the game for me, except maybe point gain. But you gain more points from surviving longer, so if you jump into shadows for a bit, it’s not a huge deal. And it’s not in your best interest to stay in the shadows since that means there’s something you can crash into up ahead. The whole solar powered thing seems a little redudent, meaning I find the core concept of this game a little weak.
Race the Sun has you levelling up as you complete achievements, unlocking new game features and perks as you do so. This is one of the main issues I have with the game. I’ve levelled up to ten and found that I’m being introduced to new features much too slowly, and the perks are almost inconsequential to the game. After ten levels, I can now jump and apparantly there’s an extra-chance shield (which I’m still yet to experience).
I was also expecting a fast-paced flight game and while definitely fast-paced, I find that the ship is slow, the controls are sluggish and too simple. Left and right is a little… boring. This isn’t helped by the relatively boring colour pallette, as seen in the images above. If anything, this games feels incomplete, or more like a final project of a uni student.
So as you can probably tell, I wasn’t overly impressed, and that was going in without any expectations. That being said I guess I do have minimal expectations in general and Race the Sun didn’t meet them. I’m not quite ready to say this a terrible game. I didn’t mind coming and home and playing for 15 minutes as a way of relaxing, yet still have some fun. Race the Sun does create a sound balance between chill and tense, helped mostly by the relaxing music (which strangely becomes more fast-paced once your run has ended). But it could never engage me for more than 15 minutes at a time. Like I said earlier, these kind of “Achievement Arcade” games are generally on the phone space, designed to played in small increments. It seems like a waste to have it my PS4 when it just could have easily been on my phone.