Title: Lonely Mountains: Downhill
Developer: Megagon Industries
Publisher: Thunderful Publishing
Genre: Action, Sports
Platform: PS4 and Xbox One
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 10/23/2019
Price: £15.99 – Rapid Reviews was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
Andre Cole: Back in June, I went to BitSummit in Kyoto, Japan. I saw lots of great games there, like Untitled Goose Game and others that have yet to come out. One of those games that I saw was Lonely Mountains: Downhill on the Switch. The game has yet to release on the Switch, but it recently came out on PS4, Xbox One, and Steam. Despite what the name might suggest, it is not a downhill biking game set in Middle Earth. Instead, I’m happy to say that my initial impressions were correct; Lonely Mountains: Downhill is an almost Zen-like experience about careening down a mountain at death-defying speeds.
Chloe Osborn: Unlike Andre, I’d actually never heard of this game before. From his recommendation, and with a little research, I decided to take the chance to review it on Xbox One. I am so glad I took that chance! With its beautiful environments and accurate handling, who would have thought that hurtling down mountains at breakneck speeds could be somewhat relaxing?
Andre: The premise of Lonely Mountains: Downhill is simple enough; you’re a mountain biker trying to make your way from one of the many peaks of the mountains down to your camp. How you’ll get there is entirely up to your personal preference, skill, and choice of bike. As you make your way down the mountain you’ll come across the kinds of obstacles you might expect. Steep slopes, rocky paths, trees, and large chasms you need to clear to make it down. Each section is a sort of puzzle, with the only wrong answer being the one where you crash.
Chloe: The different challenges to complete on each trail alter how you go about navigating it. The time challenges require you to complete the course in a certain amount of time, so finding the shortcuts and throwing yourself off cliffs in trial and error is essential. However, the challenges where you can’t crash more than a certain amount of times, you may want to be more cautious and stick to the path. Completing these challenges then unlocks outfits for your rider as well as bike parts and bike customisation, alongside trails and mountains.
Chloe: As someone who isn’t particularly confident cycling, especially mountain biking, I enjoyed the opportunity to experience this in such a realistic way. In other bike riding games like Trials, for example, the side-on view and the limited control is quite clunky. I was surprised by how sensitive the bike is to your touch in Lonely Mountains: Downhill, and how the wheels turn just like a real bike. This does make the game a little trickier to master at first, but the more you play, the more you learn the movements, becoming one with the bike.
Andre: The game does give you two options for controls too. By default, the bike will move towards the direction of the left stick, but you can change that to a left-right steering set-up. The default seems like the ideal way to play since you’re constantly changing directions as you make your way around switch-backs as well as moving towards and away from the camera. It can be a little disorienting at first, but once you get a hang of things it is quite intuitive.
Andre: The low-poly look of the game makes for beautiful scenery all around, while not obscuring anything with overgrown foliage or extraneous details. Paths are carefully hidden, often not becoming apparent until you’re already passing the end of a shortcut. This makes subsequent runs through each trail all that more satisfying as you search for shortcuts that now know are hidden. Each mountain is distinct in its color pallet and scenery, which also plays into the kinds of obstacles you can find. In the desert, you’ll make your way across long, narrow rock bridges and in a forest, you’ll ride down fallen trees and beautiful forested paths. Each place feels strikingly real, not like a video game level.
Chloe: Something that immediately stood out for me was the beautiful visuals. The colours of each mountain are gorgeous, from the wildflowers blooming amongst lush green grass to red autumn leaves scattering the ground, to the green cacti among the dry orange trails. The colourful environments combined with the audio are what makes the game as zen as it is. Birds calling out to each other, the rush of waterfalls, the skid of your wheels against gravel. It is highly immersive, and because being out in nature is something that relaxes me the most, it made for such an enjoyable experience. There’s no interruption of music, simply the sound of the great outdoors.
Chloe: I did not have any issues at all on Xbox; it ran smoothly and there were no frame rate issues which I may have expected from a game where you’re flying down mountains and crashing into trees. There was one time where I ended up at the bottom of a mountain trying to find a path, where I learned you weren’t actually meant to go, and I could see under the map. Other than that though, I can’t fault the game for how well it plays.
Andre: While Chloe didn’t experience any issues with the Xbox version of the game, playing on a PS4 Pro gave me a few problems. The game would occasionally hitch for a half-second or so, disorienting me and possibly ruining a run because my timing was thrown off. There is V-sync support in the PS4 version. Playing with it both on and off had the same issue. I also experienced numerous crashes at random points during my time with the game. The game is still enjoyable despite this, I always booted it right back up, but its a shame to see.
Andre: The game gives you plenty of challenges to keep you occupied and unlock new customization options as well as bikes. New bikes are the most significant change you’ll find in the way the game plays. The first bike you unlock, the Pacebreaker, is built for speed but falls short when it comes to jumps and drops due to its rigid suspension. Other bikes you find will be slower but have better suspension allowing you to take shorter paths that the faster bikes simply can’t navigate. It takes a bit longer than ideal to unlock more bikes, in my opinion, but new bikes do allow you to utilize new pathways through each mountain’s trails. In a way, a new bike is like finding a complete set of new trails.
Chloe: As the game relies on you to replay courses in order to complete the challenges, it’s a game you can keep coming back to. The explore mode lets you ride without the pressure of a time limit, then the three remaining modes gradually increase the challenge difficulty. The aspect of having unlockable content behind the challenges gives you more of an incentive to play, as well as the many achievements available for Xbox players. For example, there are resting places for you to find on each trail, which you may have missed on your previous run-throughs.
Chloe: Lonely Mountains: Downhill is definitely worth picking up no matter what games you enjoy, where it’s just you, nature, and a variety of paths to explore. The soothing, colourful world will keep you calm, even if you do hit that same rock over and over again! The game is available on Xbox Games Pass now, so do not hesitate to get it downloaded.
Andre: For a game that challenges you to race down a mountain as fast as you can, Lonely Mountains: Downhill is surprisingly relaxing. Your journey down each new trail you unlock is filled with discovery as you find new shortcuts and paths from the peaks to your camp. Despite some minor PS4 performance problems (which I imagine will be patched out), It’s a great pick-up now, but I can see it being perfect for the Switch once it launches there.