After a year of being cooked up indoors, it is nice to feel the wind through your hair, hear the chirping of the birds, and take in breaths of fresh air. That is exactly what I have been experiencing this past week with Super Rare Game’s newest physical release, Lonely Mountains Downhill.
This arcade-y biking title will see your low-polygon rider drifting, speeding, and ramping their way down a series of outdoor trails, which range from mountainous peaks to autumnal forests. There is a graceful simplicity to this game upon first glancing at it, but the further you travel down—like a digital decent into madness—the more you realise that developers Megagon and Thunderful Games have created a gameplay and physics system with an unexpected level of depth. Quickly, this zen-like biking journey transforms into a twitchy challenge that will leave a few naughty words echoing through those peaceful trails.
Starting atop one of the many trails for you to bike your way through, Lonely Mountains ensures that you are analysing every rock, bump, and tree root. There is a nice variety to its tracks, from anxiety-inducing cliff edges to wide open planes for you to speed down. Each track challenges you with new time and crash limits, often leading to a repetitive cycle of cutting corners and testing the fall resistance of your bike. It is an infuriating process, as you know you are a mere 15 seconds away from finalising a run when your avatar is sent flying every time you clip a rock or overshoot a tight corner.
Nonetheless, it was a process I found myself returning to on breaks at work, just before heading off to bed, and when I had a moment of free time. It is the perfect type of gaming experience for the Switch, which capitalizes on the drop-in drop-out style of gaming. It is just as fun to play for an hour as it is for five minutes.
An element that did lead to embittered ends to my Lonely Mountain sessions was a persistent lag, which would freeze the screen for close to a second. I experienced it consistently throughout my time with the game and, considering its snap-decision nature, it could often throw off near-flawless runs—as if it needed more ways to rile me up.
As the game pedals on, it begins to introduce new bikes suited to different playstyles. Looking to speed your way through a pernickety and tight trail? Plant your polygonal backside on the Pacebreaker. Needing to thump your way through shortcuts? Try out the bulky Geronimo. As you become familiar with its trails and their playstyles, you begin to piece together which bike suits which trail, creating an evolving and dynamic gameplay experience.
Switching gears and adding to the replayabilty comes night mode, which leaves you to cycle through the twisting trails, lit only by the moonlight and a torch strapped firmly to your handlebars. This is the ultimate test of your memory, as you agonise over the precise moments to brake, accelerate, and turn.
As this is a rerelease, we were fortunate enough to receive a review copy from Super Rare Games, meaning Lonely Mountains Downhill comes in the standard physical glory accustomed to physical publisher. Wrapped in a trye-treaded sleeve, Lonely Mountains comes with three snazzy trading cards and a Super Rare Games sticker. Its colourful art style make it a fantastic addition to any collector’s shelf.
Lonely Mountains Downhill is a game of two identities. One part sets you at ease as your cycle your way through beautifully designed bike routes, accompanied by the soothing sounds of churning tyres, chirping birds, and flowing streams. The other will leave your blood boiling as your crashes tick over into the hundreds. Yet it is that second part to Lonely Mountains‘ identity that meant I kept coming back, eager to trim down my run times and find every one of its hidden-in-plain-sight shortcuts. It is a deceptively full experience that will easily allow you rack up hours of playtime and leave you gripping onto your Switch as tightly as a pair of handlebars.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.]