When it comes to cycling games, there aren’t many options on current generation hardware. Until recently, basically anyone who wanted to play a cycling game had to check out a game in the Trials series, and while Trials is a lot of fun, some may be looking for something a little different. Lonely Mountains: Downhill is a decent alternative to Trials that’s just unique enough to stand out on its own.
While Trials games are known for their intense tracks, platforming challenges, and extreme difficulty, Lonely Mountains: Downhill is more calm and peaceful. The games play similarly in that they are checkpoint-based and players have to be careful to avoid damaging their bikes, but Lonely Mountains puts the emphasis on actually riding a bike instead of just making funny jumps and stunts.
Lonely Mountains: Downhill players have four main mountains to ride their bikes on, with each mountain having unique trails to ride. The nature of the game is evident throughout the experience, to the point that the game relaxes into less challenging paths. The art style is beautiful, offering plenty of beautiful scenery to look at, and the game runs smoothly even when players decide to barrel down a cliff at top speed. Despite the polygonal look of the characters and game world, the sound effects are very realistic and the game still does a good job of immersing players.
The main goal of each Lonely Mountains: Downhill trail is to reach the final checkpoint, but players are encouraged to deviate from the path. Each path has hidden rest stops for players to find, though reaching them will sometimes require some serious creativity on the player’s part. Each path is also filled with shortcuts that players can use to shave time off their run, though using these shortcuts is often a risky endeavor. Figuring out the right way to ride a bike down cliff sides and over dangerous terrain adds an element of puzzle solving to the experience, and mastering all these shortcuts is very rewarding. .
Shortcuts are required for players to succeed in Lonely Mountains: Downhill’s challenges, which are actually the weakest part of the game. To unlock new tracks, customization options, and bike parts, players have to complete challenges that consist entirely of going through a path with a certain number of crashes or ending a path at a given time. These challenges will only be available after completing a path for the first time, so players will have to go through the same path over and over again to unlock new ones.
Progress tying in Lonely Mountains: Down to completing challenges stalls the game’s momentum. Having to replay the same paths makes the game feel less long, especially if players get stuck on a particular challenge. Not to mention that it takes forever to unlock enough bike parts to unlock any new bikes, to the point where it’s barely a feature for most of the game.
Having more variety in these challenges would have done a lot to keep them from being so dull in Lonely Mountains: Downhill. Unfortunately, players will be stuck doing the same thing on the same tracks so they can progress on new paths and unlock new content. However, if one can only play the paths linearly, Lonely Mountains: Downhill will be a short experience, because there is simply nothing in the game. Even if the tracks have to be repeated, most players can play each path at least once within a few hours. Lonely Mountains: Downhill was partially funded through Kickstarter and doesn’t have a huge budget behind it, so its lack of content is understandable, but still worth noting.
The lack of content and development in Lonely Mountains: Downhill are admittedly big problems, but the core gameplay is fun enough that there are those who don’t mind repeating it. Mastering the game is rewarding, and players will find themselves rushing down paths they once trod carefully. Memorizing where the shortcuts are is a fun challenge, and there’s also value in just ignoring the path and exploring each mountain for hidden areas. Here are the bones of a fantastic bike game, so it’s great to see this concept expanded into a meatier game.
Beyond completing trails and unlocking everything, Lonely Mountains: Downhill also has online leaderboards that players can try to climb. However, we think it would be more fun competing with friends instead of random strangers. Speaking of playing with friends, there aren’t the dedicated multiplayer options one might expect from a game like this, though it does go a long way in boosting its replay value.
One last thing to note about Lonely Mountains: Downhill is that the game is currently available to those who subscribe to the Xbox Game Pass service. Game Pass subscribers should definitely check out the game for themselves, especially if they like mountain biking or are into these types of games. We tested the game through Game Pass and also using a Steam code, and found that the game controls much better with the controller. Those who decide to play Lonely Mountains: Downhill will definitely want to use a game controller, as the keyboard controls are a nightmare, though not really through the developers’ fault. Trying to properly control a game like this with a traditional mouse+keyboard setup doesn’t seem all that possible.
Lonely Mountains: Downhill has great core gameplay, but it’s light on content and its progression forces players to deal with a lot of repetition. The game looks great, sounds great, and controls well (with a controller, anyway), so hopefully the developers get a chance to expand it into a sequel.
Lonely Mountains: Downhill is available now for PC, PS4, and Xbox One, with a Switch version also in development. Today Technology reviewed the game on Xbox One.