Is barreling down full speed down a mountain trail riding a bicycle your idea of a relaxing time? If yes, then Lonely Mountains: Downhill is the game for you. It’s simple and straight to the point, without resorting to any artificial padding or gimmicks. There’s a purity in games like this that bigger and more ambitious titles inherently miss, which makes Lonely Mountains so easy to get into.
The basic gist is pretty straightforward: as a mountain biker, you start at the top of a trail and have to ride down to the bottom, unlocking new paths and mountains the further you progress in the game. You can control your biker in two different ways, by either maneuvering your bicycle based on the direction the camera’s facing, or by being locked to left or right regardless of the viewing angle.
You’re free to change that option at any time, so it’s a good idea to experiment around and see what you’re most comfortable with. Bike acceleration falls to the controller triggers, with an extra limited burst of speed for jumps being relegated to a face button. Whatever directional control style you end up going with, Lonely Mountains: Downhill are very responsive and relatively easy to master.
There are four mountains to open up, each with four unique levels that require you to finish them at least two times in order to progress. Before each of your runs you get to pick what sort of scoring you want to go with, influencing the potential difficulty of your attempt. The first has you running without any time limit or score counting on basically a scouting mission, learning the trail and basically just checking a box at the end.
The real challenge starts to pop up once you ratchet the difficulty up by adding in a clock, a miss counter, and on the last of three options for each run, turning off checkpoints completely. Since levels can get somewhat tricky later in the game, this last option is obviously the most demanding of all, but then again, it’s completely optional.
I found that the progression in the game flows pretty well overall. New bike models can be unlocked by spending parts you find scattered in many of the trails’ nooks and corners, and they vary gameplay quite a lot. The bike you start out with can be considered a middle-of-the-road choice that’s perfectly functional for the entire game, but if you want more minute mixtures of stats, you’re going to want to invest some time looking for parts to unlock some of the later bikes.
Lonely Mountains: Downhill is an incredibly charming game when it comes to presentation, thanks to its colorful blocky graphics. When talking about this kind of visual choice, the first thing that pops into mind is Minecraft, but Downhill manages to set itself apart really well by looking like what I can best describe an Atari game getting a 3D makeover without trying to add a whole lot of detail. It looks really sharp and plays really well in any of the Switch’s play modes, which is surprising to me considering my general hate for finicky-controlling games on the JoyCons.
Due to its ease of pick up and play, I would definitely recommend Lonely Mountains: Downhill to anyone looking for a game that’s not too demanding to play but that’s got a decent chunk of replayability on the Switch.