Monday, May 18, 2020

Lonely Mountains: Downhill (NSW) Review

Coming off Saturday night's review of a 2013 game that just launched on the Nintendo Switch with Megabyte Punch, we have a game that released as recently as last year on other platforms but is now available on the Switch. It's Lonely Mountains: Downhill. Let's go for a ride together with my review.

It's lonely at the top, so ride down to the bottom of the mountain!

In Lonely Mountains: Downhill, it's a solitary experience--just you and the mountain to keep you company, with all of its twists, turns, hazards, and cliffs to concern yourself with (or break your bones on). Starting off, you have but one mountain, one trail, and one bike available to you, and progression is a bit slow, especially with bikes. However, as you complete trails and challenges, more content opens up and you have a pick of each peak, so to speak.

There are four main mountains in the game, each possessing four trails, and each has its own feel and essential personality to them as well. The initial mountain is a breezy, leisurely summer forest while the second mountain is of an autumnal flair, offering a myriad of trees to avoid, shallow streams to wade your bike through on occasion, and cliff face jumps to make.

Admire the scenery all you like during a free run. Just be sure not to crash into it!
The flow of Lonely Mountains: Downhill has you doing what is basically a trial run down a trail with no time limit and the ability to freely explore at your leisure. You can crash as many times as you like, but each crash will send you back to your most recently passed checkpoint. After the trial run is complete, a beginner set of challenges becomes unlocked. When enough of those have been completed, expert challenges for the same trial unlock. For the most seasoned daredevils out there, each trail's trials ends with a difficult, sweat-inducing, pulse-pounding ride down the mountain without the help of checkpoints. One crash means you have to start over from the top of the trail.

The challenges in Lonely Mountains: Downhill will test your mettle as a rider, offering time challenges where you need to complete your run within a given duration of time as well as runs where you have to finish the run with as few crashes as possible. You can take on these challenges separately or if you're bold enough, knock them out simultaneously in one run. In fact, there are some challenges where you have to beat a set time with a minimum amount of crashes, so with these, only the hardest of the hardcore bike riders need apply.

The rugged terrain of the third mountain places riders in a desert canyon.
Completing challenges unlocks new trails, new mountains, new color schemes for your rider and bike, and bike parts that can be spent to purchase new bikes. Like I mentioned earlier, unlocking new bikes is a slow, gradual process, and each bike itself has its own advantages and disadvantages. Some are well-rounded like the bike you begin with, while others sacrifice speed for being able to take the impact of larger jumps without the worry of bailing as easily.

Lonely Mountains: Downhill is quite the challenging game, but that's not in part due to the controls, which come in two varieties. One has you move the analog stick left and right to turn in relation which direction your bike is facing, while the other, the one I stuck with, uses full 360 movement of the analog stick to control your bike. The controls are otherwise simple, using ZR to pedal, ZL to brake, and the A button to sprint, as long as there is enough energy in your rider's sprint meter.

Where Lonely Mountains: Downhill falls short is with regard to the camera. Generally, it behaves well, offering a full view of incoming terrain and obstacles ahead of you so you have plenty of time to react. Other times, however, level geometry in the form of objects or walls block the view of your rider, making it quite difficult to judge where you are in relation to hazards. Further, sometimes I found myself missing my planned route and particularly precarious jumps due to depth perception issues that occasionally pop up and plague otherwise stellar runs I was having.

The timer only records successful sections of runs, so if you crash, the timer will revert back to its previous time from the last checkpoint you reached. This is a godsend for beating certain time trials.
Still, Lonely Mountains: Downhill provided me with a lot of enjoyment, and I see it continuing. It's a blast to find new shortcuts to shave seconds off a segment of a run between checkpoints, such as cutting through a patch of grass otherwise surrounded by hazards in the form of trees and rocks. It's this risk versus reward concept that all great games have, and Lonely Mountains: Downhill has it in spades to keep you engaged and improving your runs on trails. I found myself testing the limits of each bike I unlocked, occasionally going nuts and seeing if I could survive a steep drop and make it unscathed, thus completing a makeshift shortcut in style. Other times, I cursed at my rider for falling off a cliff to their doom--through no fault of theirs but through player error, of course.

Some shortcuts are easier than others. This particular one is quite the arduous one to pull off!
Lonely Mountains: Downhill comes complete with dozens of in-game achievements, countless unlockables, and plenty of hidden areas on mountains to explore. You'll discover a lot to do in the game and on the mountains themselves. Sure, you'll have to deal with the occasional, unruly, inconvenient--dare I say--"rocky" hitching of the frame-rate, which turned some prospective runs into violent ends for my rider, but overall, Lonely Mountains: Downhill is a smooth enough ride. So, take the plunge, hop on your bike, blaze a trail, and get riding with Lonely Mountains: Downhill.

[SPC Says: B+]

Thunderful Games provided a code for the purpose of this review.

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