Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap ($10 or less) game.
How often does light die alone in the dark? According to Sunshine, the answer is “constantly.” You play as a single inexplicably cat-faced photon, journeying across to the universe to collect tiny stars and push back the encroaching forces of nothingness. You will do so by traversing circular celestial bodies, jumping carefully between them while avoiding black holes and serrated eyeballs. Hold down the game’s single button longer, and the height of your jump increases.
Failure comes often. Every jump must be carefully timed, every arc calculated, and every gravitational force compensated for. The slightest mistake returns you to the beginning of the short, punchy level. It can be enraging. I screamed at that glowing, ever-smiling kitty. And I tried again.
Sunshine is a wicked taskmaster, at once upbeat and punishing. It’s also a trickster. Sometimes the game presents a nearly impossible constellation of dangers, and you’ll notice—but only later—that you could have avoided the challenge altogether. Sunshine knows how distant each victory can feel, and it gives you the precision you need to slowly inch your way to a hard-fought success. Consequently, this success also feels well-earned, and then the difficulty increases to keep you just a few steps behind. It’s not the cheerful thing it pretends to be. It’s far more substantial.