You Should Play: Sunburn has you round up friends in space, and then plunge everyone into a star

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These days, keeping up with games can be a full-time job. So how do you separate the signal from the noise, the wheat from the chaff, the Temple Runs from the Temple Jumps? Allow us to help by regularly selecting a game You Should Play.

With hundreds upon hundreds of new games hitting the App Store each and every week, it's difficult for even a great game to stand out amongst the pack. Attractive presentation can turn some heads, and intriguing gameplay may get people playing (and keep them there), but sometimes you need an extra special hook to grab the attention of prospective players.

In the case of Sunburn, that hook is the premise: the charming, albeit terribly grim plot point that ultimately defines the experience. You play a spaceship captain whose cruiser was just smashed to bits by a glowing ball of light. Despite having no means of communication or tools to survive a long stretch in space, you nonetheless decide to honor your promise that no member of your crew will die alone.

Which means gathering everyone up and plunging straight into the nearest sun for a brutal, albeit oddly noble group death. Did your heart just sink a little? It's such a comically dire concept, yet so beautiful considering the circumstances. And Sunburn sells it perfectly with a colorful, retro-inspired aesthetic and plenty of humor injected via goofy crewmember quips and spacesuit-wearing pets.

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It's amazing how your ship broke apart in such perfect chunks, and everyone appears unharmed… albeit doomed to certain, short-term death.

Thankfully, Sunburn delivers more than just a unique starting point, as the 50-plus sectors you'll navigate—to round up all nearby allies and launch into the sun before your oxygen supply depletes—deliver compelling gameplay and serious challenge, particularly in the later stages. Thinking about enlisting in this strangely upbeat voyage to spare your pals from a solo demise? Here are three reasons why this is one Sunburn well worth seeking out. 

Seriously, that premise: When I saw the launch trailer for Sunburn some weeks back, my only reaction was to grin widely and say, "Oh, wow." Death is so often your punishment in games—the thing you do everything in your power to avoid. But here, it's the goal. And it's not done in a crass manner; Sunburn isn't gross or offensive at all, although I'm sure the objective might rub some the wrong way. 

Instead, it's drawn up as the most honorable option in an utterly hopeless situation. As captain, you may not have gone down with the ship, but you're certainly not going to let your crew face their certain fate alone. That weirdly romantic premise wouldn't work with a too-serious tone or dull visual design, but Sunburn strikes just the right tone with its charming 16-bit-style graphics and amusing interactions between doomed crewmates. Disturbing as your task may be in each stage, Sunburn keeps things perfectly light and fluffy.

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You'll need to tether everyone together before jumping into the sun. And yes, that includes furry friends as well.

Its gameplay is unique, too: Luckily, Sunburn's dire scenario isn't just window dressing on a tried-and-true gameplay concept—the tricky platform challenges feel unique, and require careful timing and navigation. Your task is to use the jetpack to zip around and collect each subordinate, attaching them all to one great big tether behind you. You'll do so while working with a limited supply of oxygen (replenished by landing on rotating planets) and dealing with moving fireballs, as well as flinging yourself through loopy gravity fields that wrest control from your thumbs. And if anyone perishes before you're all burning up together at the end, then you'll have to try again. After all, nobody dies alone out there. 

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Just a hint at what's ahead later in the game: not only is it difficult to maneuver around these space rocks, but the cable can get easily stuck and snap during your last push into the sun.

Good luck, captain: Who knew that death would be so hard to come by in the black depths of space? In actuality, it's not death that's tough to find, but rather the near-simultaneous group demise required to complete each stage. That's what proves so challenging as later levels become hugely complex. Trying to float around fireballs with a half-dozen humans and pets linked up behind you is tricky, plus the tether can get caught and snap if you're not careful. Add to that the oxygen meter and other hazards, and completing your task can be incredibly difficult at times. 

It can be frustrating in moments, especially during the last leg of the trek, but Sunburn's wit and charm go a long way towards keeping you on point. And I can promise you that there's really nothing out there quite like this lovable curio. 

Developer: Secret Crush
Platform: iOS (Universal)
Price: $3

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