Though Lonely Mountains: Downhill bills itself as a relaxing ride down a mountain trail, I actually find it pretty stressful most of the time. That’s not to say that I haven’t enjoyed it; nor that the scenery, art style and general ambience aren’t beautiful – but it’s perhaps not as chilled out as you may expect from the description and the screenshots.
Your low-poly mountain biker rides down a wonderfully presented mountainside, with multiple routes, environmental hazards and deadly drops aplenty on the way down. At first, the goal is just to reach the bottom of the trail – but once you’ve done this, you can attempt the same again, adding in challenges such as finishing the trail without crashing X number of times or reaching the bottom in a specified time limit. In a neat touch, you can stack these challenges to attempt multiple goals in a single run, tackle them one at a time or in any order you choose.
It’s a lovely little game; the visuals are, as I’ve mentioned, gorgeous and wonderfully stylised, with a lovely depth of field and focus effect that – despite the low poly, texture-free objects – gives the scenery and your character (and the bike) a nicely tangible solidity.
Sound effects, with birdsong and other ambient noises, also give the game a great atmosphere.
It sometimes feels that checkpoints are a little too unevenly placed, and the control scheme initially confuses – though there’s a choice of two, so it’s worth experimenting to see which one works best for you. The controls are straightforward, but turning can work differently to the way you may be expecting if you choose one control method over the other; a little experimenting is needed at first to work out which works for you – and it’s great that the option to change the control scheme is included.
There’s the odd issue with the camera angle and scenery making it difficult to tell whether or not you’re going to get past an obstacle or make it over a particularly large gap in the trail – and sometimes you’ll crash in the same spot, at the same angle, where you’ve previously landed successfully. Thankfully, these don’t crop up too often. Talking of crashing, it’s surprisingly crunchy and – even more shocking – there’s blood too! It’s all in keeping with the game’s general aesthetic though; it’s not as if the game turns into a Mortal Kombat-esque gorefest when you crash your bike.
It’s a simple, fairly single-minded game with a little more to it than you may expect; almost like a more laid back Trials game. I would never have tried it if it wasn’t for Game Pass working its magic again, but I’m glad I did – despite many user reviews on the Xbox store page complaining that it feels like a mobile game. Perhaps this is due to its simplicity? I don’t get this as a criticism if the game is a good one, however. Minit – which I reviewed this week – is a game that runs fine on mobile and has a similarly lo-fi aesthetic (albeit even more simplistic than Lonely Mountains: Downhill from a graphical point of view) and is also a fantastic game. Surely it’s better for gamers to have access to a wide variety of gaming experiences, rather than reserve consoles only for the blockbuster, big scale games? In any case, I see the negative connotations as rather silly – it’s just another form of gatekeeping. As you can probably gather, this is something that particularly annoys me.
In any case, though it may not be as relaxing an experience as the blurb may lull you into believing, Lonely Mountains: Downhill is a straightforward, no-nonsense indie title with very addictive gameplay and a lovely overall aesthetic – I’ve very much enjoyed making my way down the game’s winding mountain trails.
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