Premium games are becoming something of a dying breed on mobile. But do you know what? Ever since the freemium model took over, I think I’ve actually been spending more cash on iOS titles than before. And that’s not because I’m an IAP addict (I tend to avoid them when possible) — but rather it’s because the moment I spot an intriguing paid game hit the App Store, I now snap it up immediately in a show of support for the rare dev who’s still as staunchly old-fashioned as I am. The latest such game I’ve picked up is Rinikulous Games’ Lonely Sun (out now, $1.99).

screen520x924Aside from it being a reasonably priced premium title, what initially drew me to Lonely Sun is how lovely it looks. Boasting a clean, minimalist art style and lush low poly graphics, this space-set platformer truly is a feast for the eyes. And you’ll be pleased to hear it’s got compellingly challenging gameplay, well-implemented controls, superb sound design, and a substantial amount of content to go along with all those starkly beautiful visuals.

I’m getting ahead of myself, though. I should first explain the game’s premise, which is wonderfully unique. Here’s the deal: Somewhere out there in the vast, eternally lonely reaches of space, there’s a newly formed sun that’s in need of a solar system to be the center of. That’s where you, the player, come in. It’s up to you to help fulfill the sun’s destiny by guiding five fledgling planets through some seriously treacherous alien terrain and into its orbit.

Lonely Sun has five stages, one for each planet. Your goal in each is to make sure a baby planet reaches the end of the level without being smashed to pieces by obstacles like jagged crystal formations and space debris that litter the way. You don’t have direct control of the planet, and instead must shunt the little orb around by carefully flicking and swiping your iPhone’s touchscreen. As if painstakingly navigating hazards wasn’t enough, you’ve also got to collect glowing planet cores, many of which are tucked away in hard-to-reach areas.

screen520x924-2The levels themselves are fiendishly designed and they don’t have any checkpoints, so even the slightest slip-up means you get sent right back to square one. It’s maddening. And if I’m being honest, during my time with it, I swore profusely at the game. I rage quit it repeatedly. I genuinely almost hurled my iPhone at the wall out of sheer frustration a couple of times … and yet I always felt compelled to return to it. To try just that little bit harder the next time. And that, my friends, is how good of a game Lonely Sun is; no matter how badly it kicks your ass, you’ll keep coming back for more. Oh, and the sense of discovery and achievement when you do finally manage to successfully pass a stage and unlock the next? Priceless. Totally makes all the failures you’ve been through beforehand feel worthwhile.

Will Lonely Sun be a hit? It’s hard to say — the unforgiving difficulty and $1.99 price tag could potentially turn some people off. I certainly hope it is though, because the game is an example of something that we could do with more of on iOS these days: a thoroughly unique indie experience that isn’t riddled with irritating ads and IAPs.

Verdict

If you can get past how soul-crushingly tricky it is, there’s a lot to like about Lonely Sun. From the gorgeous visuals and atmospheric sound design to the cleverly crafted gameplay and a wealth of fun content, this game simply oozes class and quality. In short, it’s a shining example of how unique and worthwhile well-made premium games can still be on the iOS platform.

'Lonely Sun' Review: A Blindingly Great Experience
Fantastic visuals, atmosphere and sound designCompelling and challenging gameplayPlenty of contentThis is a fully premium experience with zero IAPs or ads
Its fairly gruelling difficulty won't be to everyone's tasteIt's currently a non-universal, iPhone only app, which is a shame since I'd love to play it on iPad
4.5Excellent