I have always counted myself lucky that I won't be around when the sun dies. Think about that, huh? The sun gets all swollen (like me at a buffet) and red (strangely enough, also like me at a buffet) and starts eating planets (I hate to belabor the me at a buffet point, but this one's obvious). Yes, best not to be around for that, or so I thought until I played ooPixel's (Rapid Wars, Gride) brilliant new action game, Escape the Red Giant. Now I know that all you need to have fun during a solar system destroying apocalypse is a pair of roller skates and an amazing ability to jump. You don't even need a hermetically sealed space suit!
All you need to know about the story is in the title itself. The sun is about to die, and you have to keep yourself alive for as long as possible by jumping from one asteroid to the next. Your only tool to help you, besides an Olympic aptitude for high jumping, are your roller skates. What good will roller skates do you in a death defying race against a dying star? We'll get to that, trust me.
Controls are simple. On the surface of an asteroid, you can skate clockwise or counterclockwise using the [Left] or [Right] arrow keys, and to jump off, press [Up]. Once you are in space, you can forget about steering. You probably shouldn't have forgotten your rocket pack at home. But if you have enough momentum, and you hold the up arrow key mid flight, you can crash through asteroids instead of landing on them.
Those roller skates I mentioned? They come in handy while building momentum, which you will need tons of, because that star behind you is growing really fast, and champion jumper though you may be, your froggy legs alone won't be enough to escape the red giant.
But keep playing, and you find that there is definitely some depth involved. There are somewhere around 50 different "tricks" available to you, and a subtle technical skill set is involved, which makes this more than just a bunch of rock hopping. For instance, clipping an asteroid at the correct angle while holding the right directional key will send your little guy whirring around it like a tornado, potentially allowing you to whip through space at near light speed. Alternatively, there are times when it's best to slow down (like when you are heading towards the sun as opposed to away from it).
This is encased in a physics engine that may not be faithfully realistic, but at least has an appreciative eye for detail, such as the way the gravitational pull of different sized asteroids will alter your flight path (how the enormous gravitational pull of the star behind you doesn't override all of this is best ignored).
The result is tight and incredibly addictive gameplay. The more you get a feel for how ETRG works, the more you want to try it again to see how much further you can get. This urge is prodded along by a background convention pulled straight from Dolphin Olympics 2, where you are awarded extra points for reaching certain landmarks, such as Mars (without sneakers) or (poor) Pluto.
Unfortunately, aside from the landmarks, everything else tends to get repetitive. Just changing the colors of the asteroids would have been nice. The music is infectious to a point, but you'll eventually be looking to mute it.
But for the most part Escape the Red Giant is one of those games that you don't think of much the first time you play, or the second time you play, or even the third time you play. It won't be until maybe the forty-second time you play that you stop to realize, "Oh, I'm addicted aren't I?"