From the small development studio that is Megagon Industries and publisher Thunderful Games comes Lonely Mountains – Downhill. Out on PS4, Xbox One and PC this week, we used a PS4 to peddle down a few mountains.
At first sight, Lonely Mountains certainly is striking with its low poly visuals and smooth camera work. Under that exterior lies an addictive, skill-based downhill biking racer/game that is easy to play yet tough to master. With its emphasis on control mastery and the two-wheeled action it’s tempting to draw comparisons to Ubisoft’s Trials series, but Lonely Mountain always feels like its own game.
For one, it’s because there’s more of a sense of realism to Lonely Mountains, with courses that see you descent a mountain through a diverse range of natural elements rather than over-the-top set pieces. Once you get comfortable enough with the controls, traversing these levels is an almost zen-like experience.
Lonely Mountains is also far less linear than Trials is. Ubisoft’s game has carefully designed challenges that are set up in sequence over the course of a level, but in Megagon’s new game you’re relatively free to do your own thing. There’s a pre-defined path, but there are also clearly marked (dirt) roads you can take for a shortcut. Feeling a bit more adventurous? Then you can also go completely off-course and dash through a few trees, or jump off a cliff hoping that you’ll stick the landing at the bottom.
This isn’t something you’ll likely do right away, but Lonely Mountains encourages you to play levels multiple times in a number of ways. Discovering alternate routes is one of them, but there is also an objective-based progression system that helps you unlock new content by crashing fewer times, getting down the hill faster or meeting other objectives. So while you might be taking it easy on your first go, making sure you actually get to the finish line, there are plenty of reasons to go back and try again.
The courses are divided up into different trails on a series of mountains that make sure the view gets changed up every now and then, but the differences are never as dramatic as they can be in other racers – perhaps due to the low poly look and the game being grounded in locations meant to resemble actual hillsides you’d bike on rather than volcanoes, underground caves and industrial complexes.
The controls, in a game like this, can make or break the experience – and they’ve well implemented in the case of Lonely Mountains. They’re simple (peddle, brake and sprint) with two ways of controlling your rider’s direction: camera-specific or rider-specific. If you prefer to press left or right relative to what your rider is seeing then you can do that, but if you want to point your thumbstick in the direction where you want to go on screen then that’s an option too – I’ve tried both and they both work very well in terms of responsiveness.
This game would absolutely rock with a side-by-side local multiplayer option and it’s a shame that isn’t there (yet?), but for now at least we have the online leaderboards. With a lot of content, a good progression system, excellent controls and a unique visual style, Lonely Mountains: Downhill is a great game to scratch that skill-based racing itch in a way that isn’t Trials-related.