While it may not be widely apparent due to both my physique and my great love for chocolate, I have no greater love in life than cycling. Whether in road racing, performing (not so) very impressive tricks on a BMX or, indeed off-road mountain biking, there is nothing that I so greatly enjoy as allowing my legs to carry me. There is nothing that makes me feel quite so alive as my heart beating hard against my chest, climb conquered, and peak ahead. That is something any other member of Indie Gamer Team could tell you, as they have all been the victims of my unfortunately timed rambles about grand tours, or bicycle brands.
The point being, of course, that I came to Lonely Mountains: Downhill with a very strong sense of what it should be, and what it should not. Cycling has had a tough time in the world of video games, so very often underrepresented that the reason I still keep Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas installed, is to ride a bicycle amidst a vast open world. There are good video games with cycling as a focus, take the licensed Pro Cycling Manager series which has been going strong for over 18 years, or No Fear Downhill Mountain Bike Racing which, besides being a mouthful, was also my go to game for mountain biking prior to this one, but they’re a minority. I could mention Dave Mirra, or even other hidden gems, but to track down such games might have become less of a necessity now that Lonely Mountains: Downhill entered the market.
Lonely Mountains: Downhill is a game that I find hard to review not because I don’t know whether or not I enjoyed it, I absolutely did it was one of my favorite games I got to review, but because there is a true sense of escapism and wonder to it I’m not sure I can accurately describe. Let me be clear, Lonely Mountains: Downhill is a game I would definitely recommend. It’s a game totally filled with that absolute, arcade-style level of addictiveness. It is, in that sense, much like Super Meat Boy or Hotline Miami where you swear you’ll just give it “one more try” and suddenly it’s 6am, it’s bright outside, and you have no idea where your night went. Like a pack of chips, itsy bitsy things (in this case attempts) that add up, but, and there’s always a but, it is so much more that I struggle to come up with words, or indeed content, to describe it.
Because Lonely Mountains: Downhill will kick your ass, repeatedly. It will, if you forgive the cheap pun, take you for a ride, as that is the core of the game. Going down trails and falling, losing your balance and tripping, often into jagged rocks or the ground way down below. Lonely Mountains: Downhill takes what you think you know, what you take for granted, and the skills you’ve cultivated, and then it challenges you to prove yourself. It’s not unbearable, it’s not even difficult in the true sense of the word. It’s not filled with rampant dangers or unfair design…No, what is so brilliant about Lonely Mountain: Downhills, is that the person who makes it hard for themselves is them, the player.
That is the genuine wonder about Lonely Mountains: Downhill, the way it truly encapsulates and represents mountain biking and all of its possibilities in such a way that you forget your restraints and, what is truly impressive, is that is what makes you fall down and crash. It’s not that it controls poorly, the controls are responsive, and while it’s not a full on simulation, they feel very much like a bicycle should. It’s not even that your range and options are limited. Sure going down slopes is faster than climbing up them and even with the best bikes, which you get after achieving certain goals, some slopes are just too steep to climb, but there’s always a way out. No, it’s that it makes your reservations fly away.
Never, I feel, has a game better captured the idea of mountain biking. There is nothing stopping you from going slow, even if you’re timed, but a part of you always wonders “what if”. There are steeper, narrower, more dangerous paths that would take you down so much faster, paths that could either result in glory or in broken bones, and where the game shines is in making you take chances, because that is what mountain biking means to me. Sure, road racing is fast and great, but the paths are mapped and set by man. That’s not the case with mountain biking.
It’s a fact of life that whenever I go up and explore a trail I always end up turning and making wild dashes across the terrain, that one turn becomes twenty, and pretty soon I have explored places I never saw before, amidst my joyous riding. Lonely Mountains: Downhill captures that feeling brilliantly, it captures the senses, and more than that, it opens things up. It’s not an open world, and there are only so many paths down a mountain, it’s not limitless, but it sure feels that way.
It’s escapism, in the best sense of the world and I found myself repeating Lonely Mountains: Downhill a heck of a whole lot. Lonely Mountains: Downhill is not exactly ground breaking, it won’t change the industry, or make it so there are suddenly a hundred bicycle games, but it sure as heck kept me entertained. It’s a definitive recommendation.
Lonely Mountains: Downhill was developed by Megagon Industries and published by Thunderful Publishing.
It is available for: $19.99 on Steam, PS4, and Xbox One with a Nintendo Switch release coming soon.
A review copy was provided by the developer.
Mcportugalem has awarded Lonely Mountains: Downhill the Indie Gamer Team Seal of approval