Lonely Sun is the game I didn’t know I needed: it’s beautiful, soothing, and also made me cry each time my poor little planetoid careened into a jagged death-rock.
At its heart, Rinikulous Games‘ creation is a physics-based touch controlled platformer, where you guide five space objects made of different elements through dangers in an effort to collect the glowing materials that will allow them to become a planet orbiting the lonely sun. It requires a lot of touch (think Flappy Bird), and a good grasp of angles and in-game gravity (think King Oddball, which we reviewed here), yet the whole package is wrapped in a polygon-ic acid trip that really gives that cosmic vibe. For those of us who feel ashamed to be seen playing cartoon-ish physics games (just get over it), LS is the solution–it’s a game app that looks like the art it is. Seriously, the atmosphere is so chill that people will think you’re deep just for playing it.
That’s a lot of awesome for under three bucks in the iOS store–check out Lonely Sun here.
“A solitary sun waits in the cold darkness of space for its solar system. It won’t be alone long–all around it the invisible forces of cosmic creation have begun forming five planets . . .”
This is the introduction on the title screen of Lonely Sun – Be Gravity’s Guiding Hand, and it explains the extent of the story. There are also details provided on each of the space-balls that you’ll be guiding on their paths to planet-hood. They include Ametho, a purple ball of rock; Neryssa, a blue spiky water-based ball; Nuriona, a red ball of fiery-hotness; Isoley, an ice-ball that must traverse it’s pointy surroundings to safety; and Siroccee, a small and distant brick-colored ball that must contend with strong cosmic winds.
The basic gameplay of Lonely Sun doesn’t require much struggles to understand; using your finger, you can flick your space-ball up and away, through narrow horizontal corridors viewed from the side (like a sidescrolling platformer). Keeping in mind that your planetoid will fall back to the surface of the level if not consistently flicked, you’ll eventually learn to manage each area’s gravitational pull intuitively (meaning you’ll figure out how fast a certain flick will send your ball).
Unlike Flappy Bird and its clones, however, the goal is not to keep the pre-planet from falling to the bottom of the screen, but to collect the indicated number of glowing balls stationed throughout the level (these are the materials your rock needs to become a planet.) To do so, you’ll need to keep away from the brightly colored danger-rocks that sit, branch-out, spin, swing, and rise up and down from all angles throughout the level. These are differently colored from the level’s boundary-rocks, the latter of which you can touch, roll, and bounce off of without penalty. That means the best strategy is, in some cases, not to careen over or between danger-rocks, but roll beneath them.
Each of Lonely Sun’s five aspiring planets has three stages, which brings the count to 15 levels. That may seem like just a handful in this day and age of physics puzzlers and procedurally generated content, but the levels are long–you’ll be trying them over and over to get a handle on the challenges present in each, so you’ll find a good amount of playtime. Each of the 15 stages also has unique hazards to contend with. For example, Neryssa’s first stage has gusts that blow from the ground and can propel you towards dangers, or shift your trajectory. Siroccee’s stages have similar hazards, but they are ever-present winds stationed on the ground, ceiling, or even in mid-air. Ametho’s first stage doesn’t have any winds or gusts but does have danger-rocks occasionally swinging from the ceiling like spiky pendulums.
During my playthrough of the game, I learned that there are two basic approaches to gameplay, and each has their place. The first is to use confident, gestural strokes to direct your ball, treating your finger like a paintbrush. This can give you good distance and height, or drive your ball down or back sharply mid-progression. The second approach is the one I found myself starting out with, which is to frantically jab at my planet in a frenzied attempt to smack my ball (no dirty pun intended–get your mind out of the gutter!) away from danger. This can be useful to make very specific minor alterations, but you won’t be able to get strong, quick thwacks in this direction or that.
The reason is because, as the subtitle of Lonely Sun suggests, you are not flinging the ball with your finger, but creating a gravitational pull or push with it. That gravitational force you create is what actually directs the ball, and anchoring that concept in your head will help you improve both the timing and force of your finger motions. You’ll also find that switching from an iPhone to an iPad, or vice versa, will change your play-style, as you’ll need to move your finger different distances for each (due to the difference in screen size).
All of this sounds like it might be relaxing, yes? You control the speed, so you can roll or bounce your way to victory comfortably while pondering the vastness of space.
This game is, despite its atmosphere of soothing peace, really freakin’ hard. It’s not impossible, but it took me many, many tries to get even the first 3 out of 5 glowing balls in Ametho’s first stage, and even more to get all five. With that said, there is a Dark Souls–esque satisfaction to just surviving to that next ball of planet-material, even if you die a second later.
graphics and sound
The graphics on an iPhone are crisp and beautiful in a low-polygonal way, and a tiny bit more craggy on an iPad (though the colors and design are still superb). Your pre-planet is multifaceted, as are the rising and floating walls and platforms. The color usage is critically important, as the dangers are all more brightly colored than the rest of the surroundings, but are not the same hue from one planet’s stages to the next (in other words, Ametho’s dangers are brightly orange-red, while Sirocce’s are bright yellow, and the other 3 planet’s colors are different, still.) The wind and gust visuals are pretty standard but effective. The lighting is necessarily stark and brings the multiple planes of each object into nice relief.
The sound is great and minimal. There’re only enough wooshing and ethereal swells to make you feel isolated within an alien landscape, and anything more would be excessive. Despite the minimalism of the soundtrack, I still suggest playing it with a nice set of sound-dampening headphones. Turn the lights off, and you’ve got a very meditative experience.
Until you die, that is, at which point your space-ball pops with a sound like a busted balloon. Your space-ball then flies apart like one, too, which is an effect I’m torn on–I like the exploding fragments, but the popping sound is jarring; yet, without the popping sound, the explosion would seem odd. Perhaps I expected my fragmenting space-rock to careen apart, slowly spinning this way and that (like a destroyed ship in FTL). This, however, is some serious nit-picking.
Overall, I really dig my time with Lonely Sun – Be Gravity’s Guiding Hand. I use the present tense “dig” because I’m still playing the game, which isn’t always the case when you review multiple games a week. It’s a great pick-up and put-down game, and I’ve started carrying my previously neglected iPad around with me because of it.
Bottom line? If you’re into minimalism, you’ll like the looks and sound, and if you’re into physics games that rely on skill and precision more than puzzles, you’ll love the gameplay. Like both pf those things? Then you’re going to like Lonely Sun as much as I do.
|+ Minimalist design of the best kind–beautiful||– Lurching back to level start on death might irk some|
|+ Good use of ambient music to mirror the lighting||– Hard as space-diamond|
|+ Low price, High quality|