When I first heard about Lonely Mountains: Downhill I wondered how anyone could successfully bring the sense of mountain biking to a game, especially when I found out it would be in a sort of isometric 2D style.
Thankfully, developer Megagon Industries knew exactly what they were doing and the game seems to miraculously provide the feeling of wind rushing past your face as you grip the handlebars, watching small rocks roll down the rather steep hill just where your back tyre had been.
The game is rather late to Switch, having appeared on other consoles back in October, but it feels great to hold the game in your hands while you make the next sharp turn or cross the thin tree stump over a steep ravine. It fits on Nintendo’s hybrid console perfectly.
The scenery is amazing, especially considering it has a chunky stylised polygon effect, but you only really notice this in stills. When moving, you get the impression you’re in a park on an Autumn day or rolling down another mountain alone with nature. It may be a lonely mountain but it’s so full of life.
The physics just work, though they take a little time to get used to. Controls involve using a careful balance of momentum along with the analogue stick which Megagon have somehow made to feel like handlebars. Once you’ve got to grips (ahem) with them then you’ll be able to make it to the finish line faster and find shortcuts or take more chances at jumping down some of the steep hills rather than riding around them.
Making the increasingly tough time trials and passing a course without too many fails may take some time but it does give you rewards in return. In addition to opening new paths and new mountains, there are bikes and parts to unlock. These will take time, though, so don’t expect to unlock everything right away, the game does make you work for them. In this way it’s a little like the early Trials games.
Lonely Mountains is unlike anything else I’ve played. It’s a fantastic look at how you can use an unexpected medium to portray something so well, given the right artists and programmers who obviously really love their subject matter. Even if you aren’t in to mountain biking, though, it’s a fantastic physics action game that will challenge and delight you.