I've been waiting for an excuse to write about Race the Sun. Now that the indie arcade title has made its way to Steam, I finally have one. This game has actually been out for months, and in that time, it's become one of my favorite ways to unwind. There's an almost zen-like quality to Race the Sun that's intense and soothing at the same time. For a taste, check out the launch trailer from August:
The gameplay is simple: collect points without crashing into anything. Solar power provides the propulsion, adding a unique twist to the old-school mechanics.
Race the Sun is all about threading through increasingly dense jungles of obstacles. The controls feel appropriately tight, which makes the experience instantly engaging for me. The game is quick to pick up for short sessions, and it's easy to lose hours chasing higher scores and further progress into the world.
Race the Sun's hypnotic soundtrack deserves some of the credit for the game's calming quality. So does the instinctive nature of the gameplay. Of course, the serenity only applies to the standard world—the hardcore "apocalypse" world rachets up the difficulty in a much more chaotic setting.
One of the neatest things about Race the Sun is the ever-changing game world. The standard and apocalyptic landscapes reset every 24 hours, presenting the player with new challenges and leaderboards. Even though the basic building blocks stay the same, this reconfiguration keeps the levels feeling fresh.
Variety is further enhanced by player-created content. Race the Sun includes an in-game level editor that looks pretty easy to use (there's a basic tutorial here). Player-created worlds can be accessed from within the game, and some of them aren't half bad. I suspect there will be a lot more user-generated content now that the Steam community is in on the action.
Given the stripped-down gameplay, it's only fitting that the graphics have a minimalist vibe. The stark beauty of the retro-inspired environments elevates the visuals above the flat textures and low-poly models.
As one might expect, the basic graphics translate to modest system requirements. Race the Sun only calls for a dual-core processor and a DirectX 9-class graphics card. It runs pretty well on Asus' Bay Trail-based Transformer Book T100 tablet, so any halfway-decent PC should be able to deliver smooth frame rates.
Until December 16, Race the Sun is selling for $7.49, 25% off the regular price. Considering the number of hours I've sunk into the game so far, that's a steal.