Lonely Downhill Mountains (2019)

Sometimes the most enjoyable games don’t require tons of built in mechanics or massive budgets combining hundreds of development staff all trying to make a large game. Sometimes a game just needs to do one thing extremely well to captivate you, and Lonely Downhill Mountains does just that. Taking a simple activity like downhill mountain biking and turning it into a trial and error checkpoint race against a clock.

With such a simple game, it doesn’t need much setup to explain. You control a mountain biker who starts off at the top of a mountain, and is tasked with getting to the bottom. At first the only objective is to get to the bottom, wipe out as much as you want, explore or go insanely fast… it’s all up to you. Once you do get to the bottom and finish the first objective, you unlock that map which gives you several other tasks to complete in Beginner, Expert and Free Rides for the same trail. Completing those other objectives will unlock either parts if you complete the trail in a specified time limit. Those parts then are used to unlock better and different bikes. Each bike is built to satisfy a special type of trail. Some might be better at sharp turns, or one might be built for speed but the slightest bump will send you tumbling off a cliffside.

Unlocking the other trails on the mountain is fairly simple as well. Just complete the ride down the mountain within a certain limit of falls. Some might seem like a small amount, like say, 13 to unlock the next trail. But what’s nice about these objectives are that you can go as slow as you want. I found myself trying to go slow, but feeling the need to push the sprint button at every conceivable straightaway, which usually ended with my rider slamming face first into a tree.

Once you unlock and pass each trail on a mountain, you can go for unlocking the next mountain, which usually consisted of beating a time trial along with not falling a certain amount of times. Those were the more hectic ones, which got me to start really paying attention to how many times I was bailing out, and going for the slower approach most of the time. When you do go slow, you’ll notices less worn pathways that can lead to shortcuts, getting you a much quicker time, and those are a must when attempting the time trials.

The timing mechanic of the checkpoints are nice, because each checkpoint saves your time, and if you bail out you’ll restart and the clock will reset to where it was when you crossed the checkpoint. For example, lets say you have a race that requires you to beat a trail in 2:15 seconds and only bail out 19 times. You can sprint to the first checkpoint time as many times as you want and it will never get counted. Once you cross the first checkpoint, that’s when the bails are then counted. If you cross that first checkpoint at 25 seconds, and then bail out 10 seconds later, you start at the checkpoint with 25 seconds on the clock and 1 bail counted against you.

The game employs that “retro” low polygon count aethstetic that seems to be all the rage right now in the indie gaming world. And while initially it threw me off, and actually made me second guess if I wanted to play it or not, I did give it a try late at night when I had nothing else better to do. I initially bounced off the game for one reason or another, I think I might have not just been in the right mindset, but once I did sit down and really put my mind into getting invested into the game, it became a extremely relaxing “Zen” style game. One where you focus so intensely on a single task and zone out. Which is quite easy with the minimalistic style of the game’s graphics and soundtrack. Mostly what you get is just wind and birds chirping and the sound of rushing water. It all works together so well that there wasn’t much need for me to throw on anything extra. However I did get into a new band and I ended up playing through their discography on the back half of the game.

The unlocks become a bit brutal requiring you to memorize trails almost down to every curve and jump. And after I unlocked and raced every trail in the game, I found the only things left to do was unlock more bikes, paintjobs and outfits for my character. Even after learning about free DLC and playing through those as well, I found myself not wanting to play just to unlock stuff I didn’t need or care about. I ended up with a “completed” run on the game within about 5 hours of playtime. It’s short enough to devote a few evenings to and be able to put away. Costing me nothing thanks to GamePass, Lonely Downhill Mountains is a superb small game that you can finish in a weekend without much fuss and enjoy the entire time. I’d highly recommend it as a “palate cleanser” game if you find yourself wondering what to play next.