Review: Race the Sun

Store page / View this review on Steam

I don’t normally care for runner games unless they do something to keep me invested. The gameplay loops don’t usually hook me very much, so once I run out of progression I run out of interest. A lot of them now have levels to earn and missions to do and unlocks to… unlock for people like me, and Race the Sun is no different. But even after unlocking everything, I still go back to it now and then because of how solid the basic gameplay is.

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You’re the pilot of a solar-powered hovercraft, speeding towards the setting sun in an attempt to stay in daylight. Shadows cast by mountains, structures, and clouds will all slow you down, and when the sun sets, you’re done. To keep up with the sun you’ll need to dodge the many obstacles in your wide-open path, as well as pick up booster items to thrust you forward at even higher speed. I’m not kidding about speeding towards the sun either, because it’s setting fast and even without the boosters your regular pace feels like hundreds of miles per hour. Dodging obstacles and steering into pickups is thrilling and harrowing, and pulling off tight maneuvers is always satisfying.

There are all manner of items to pick up across the levels like point multipliers, jumps, shields, and more. Completing tasks like clearing 3 levels without bumping anything or jumping 5 times earns you XP towards new ranks, which unlock upgrades and decals for your ship. There are 25 ranks to earn which give you a tangible goal for at least a few hours, but even beyond that there are reasons to keep flying. The main levels change every day, giving you new layouts to tackle. There’s also a hard mode and a maze mode to unlock, along with user-created levels to try. In a rather inspired move, you can find portals in the regular game that lead to secret user-created levels each day.

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The presentation is a unique blend of stark, clean visuals, soothing soundtrack, and a strangely casual tone to the text. All the elements are there for a game that you can load up for 5 or 10 minutes for a quick run, or turn on for an hour and work at, or start the free-flight mode and just chill. And chill you will, because despite the overwhelming speed and profusion of obstacles this still manages to be a truly relaxing game. There’s no fighting so it won’t properly scratch that Starfox itch you might get from the screenshots, but it’s well worth a few hours of your time to explore and enjoy.

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