Lonely Mountains: Downhill – Breakneck speed and skidding corners.
Below the crunch of tires on gravel, there’s a slight drifting sound of the breeze in the mountains. Everything is peaceful, simple. A small polygonal figure sits astride a mountain bike, feet braced on the pedals, ready for a thrilling downhill exploration of nature.
The first mountain is lush in greenery, an initial route filled with slow, lazy corners allowing the player to truly feel at one with the wilderness which surrounds. The pacing will soon ramp up, but for now we can take it easy, freewheeling to the sound of rubber skipping underneath.
Lonely Mountains is exactly that. A set of mountains in which the player finds themselves alone, with nothing but a mountain bike and a sumptuous representation of the wild.
For casual players – those who simply want to explore – the ability is there to just head out, bomb around on a bike like you’re nine years old and your mum hasn’t called you in for dinner yet.
For the more competitive, there are challenges to nail, which unlock new styles of clothes for the rider and even new bikes.
With each mountain, your first task is to explore. Take your time. Pedal from the peak to the valley below where your campsite is set up. The path is highlighted by a well-worn track but as you speed along, you’ll notice off-shoots, small gaps between trees and sloped rocks which seem very rideable. Once recognisance has been done, it’s time to step up.
Challenges open in varying difficulty, rewarding play with parts for new bikes and swish new clothes. Here is one of only a couple of downsides – bike parts are unlocked over the three mountains, meaning you need to progress quite far to get your hands on a new bike. Often, you’ll have conquered feats on the most basic of wheels making later bikes feel unnecessary.
The developers have employed a very clever way of giving the player confidence through that earlier natural exploration. When they ask for a time to be beaten, the brain starts to plot new pathways. Maybe I can zoom between these trees? Or cut that corner?
Perhaps I can leap from this sheer edge and land deftly on the rock below which eliminates eight seconds from the run? This is a natural progression of power, slowly adding new tactics for success.
Of course, the more expert challenges will test your skills, requiring daredevil-like jumps and intelligent use of that sprint button.
However, it never stops being fun. It’s pure unadulterated joy, distilled in vector-based graphics. The fluidity of movement is so smooth it’s reminiscent of playing with Scalextric sets. There’s never a sense that the bike didn’t respond or the landscape tripped progress. Each mistake is yours to own and adjust.
Too much speed and you’ll careen into a ditch of a tree, too little and you won’t make that jump. For casual players, there may be a sense of little to do if not chasing challenges and that’s fair. Later tasks ask a lot of riders and there’s a need for ‘perfect’ sections in order to progress.
Graduating from the first mountain and its Spring-like forestry gives way to a canyons with sheer drops, tiny pathways and arid deserts. Steep downhills pull you towards the edge of your seat as the scenery whips by, your eyes picking up small possibilities for the next attempt.
Perhaps the best mechanic here is the instant restart, which, unlike with the Trials games, doesn’t require you to go all the way back to the start.
Each mountain is broken down into checkpoints, meaning a fall or restart puts you back to that point, but also sets the clock back. Lonely Mountains feels more like a rally game in this respect and all this information is delivered at the end, telling you where you lost or gained time.
Beyond the bike, there’s a real sense of an actual world living around you. Birds scatter as you burst through trees, streams trickle alongside with flashes of light bouncing from the surface.
Rocks skitter from underneath as you apply the brakes on a tight corner and foliage drifts, crackles and springs up when trodden down. The camera swings back and forth responding to your movements, pulling back on long straightaways giving a sense of speed.
Lonely Mountains: Downhill – 4/5
– Reviewed on PC
Lonely Mountains is far from lonely, it rekindles a feeling of childhood. Of meeting with friends and exploring the woods, daring each other to take jumps or freewheel through water. It’s a game about being alone, by being at one with nature and the bike beneath you.
- The fluidity of control
- Beautiful visuals
- Stark, basic sound effects
- Plenty of challenge for those seeking
- Some challenges require perfect precision
- Bike unlocks come a little too late
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