If you’ve ever come across an ATV race on YouTube, you know that watching it usually gets you hooked and you’re also on the edge of your seat the entire time, hoping that the driver doesn’t bump into a single rock or fly off a cliff while you watch it all through your GoPro. Downhill mountain bike races are wild and intense. It’s also very dangerous, so for those of us who prefer to sit our asses down on the couch and still get some of the thrill of the sport, Lone Mountain: Turning off the switch seems like a simple repair. But can the game really capture the excitement of the sport, or will it be more like a Sunday tandem ride around town?
Lonely mountains: Below (I’ll call it LMD for short), you travel in the fictional land of Lone Mountain. The four mountainous areas you can play in the game are inspired by real places like the Sierra Rivera, similar to the hangover trail in Sedona, Arizona. You start the game on the Graterhorn, which is clearly inspired by the Matterhorn in the Alps, with only a starter bike and the most basic training aids to teach you how to move and steer.
LMD immediately shines with its gameplay and presentation of the sport. You start at the top of the course with the sole purpose of finishing somewhere. The only drawback is that you have to pass multiple checkpoints, and if you miss one, you can’t finish the game. It’s pretty simple, isn’t it? It would probably be a piece of cake!
Once you start descending, there is generally a well-developed path to follow. This route is the equivalent of a predictable Sunday outing, but even these trails become intense and difficult to travel over time. What makes the LMD infinitely more fun is the fact that semi-open and slightly looser trails allow you to find your own secret routes down. We’re not talking about a completely open world here, but you will find that there are many partially developed paths, shortcuts, or variations on how to successfully run. Of course, memorizing the course and learning shortcuts are essential if you want to succeed.
The operation of the ATV is very convenient and the release mechanism allows you to buy a total of six bikes, each with varying degrees of stability, durability and overall control. Since controlling and navigating the treacherous tracks is the absolute key to success in this game, two methods of control are offered: either left/right or an omnidirectional method of controlling the screen. I chose the latter because it was the closest thing to the underground isometric crawler game, which suited me personally.
The game has a fairly aggressive and sensitive physical system, but I got the impression that it was well configured for what you would expect in an arcade presentation of the sport. It takes a little experimentation to figure out what your rider and your bike can handle, and even then it can be unpredictable at times. I managed to slide down the cliff, but a little later I gave up on my mountain bike because I accidentally got stuck on the side of a small rock. Sometimes I caught myself making a hilarious misstep and got just as excited because the smallest misstep meant it was my fault too. Really, I feel like it still fits with what I’ve seen in the sport, and I appreciate the physical system they’ve developed here. However, there is a fine line between making a mistake because of an obvious mistake and making a play where you seem to have hit something so small that it was almost impossible to see.
LMD takes this intense gameplay and wraps it up in an unlockable progression system that I think changed the entire dynamic of the game to be even whiter. When you land on the mountain, you can choose between four lanes, but only the first one is open. Each track is then divided into four levels of challenges. The first, called Explorer, is the only task that requires you to just cross the finish line. When you’re done, unlock the Rookie challenge group. You may have to cross the finish line within a certain time, or you may only cause a certain number of accidents, etc. The next level is Expert, and these are seriously aggressive challenges. If I’ve already said that learning the track is essential, then you need to bring your best game there. To get the best race time, you need to master speed and efficiency and learn the best shortcuts on the track to meet these intense time requirements. I discovered that with the bikes at my disposal, I could quickly overcome the difficulties associated with expert missions.
Completing these tasks not only unlocks new trails and mountains, but can also reward you with cosmetics like bike paint and outfits for runners. Some problems may also unlock some of the cycling. It is essentially a barter for the purchase of new engines and is usually earned on the job. I enjoyed saving up enough money to buy a new mountain bike, which I then used on the old trails to try and complete outstanding tasks that I hadn’t been able to do before.
But just when you think you’ve mastered the circuit, along comes the final challenge on the track, called Free Rider, which, like Explorer, simply asks you to complete the circuit and cross the finish line. This will unlock night mode, allowing you to take on new challenges, but only race on tracks in the dark with a headlight on the front of the bike. If you thought the trail was difficult before, some of the last mountains looked totally awesome! However, there have been some graphical issues in this mode, which will hopefully be corrected later.
The final area in which LMD uniquely stands out is that the game is presented in a very flashy and rhythmic style. At first I was hesitant to believe it would work, given the subtle movements you have to make when zipping up a mountain, but it does! And it works perfectly. The game’s four mountains have a unique, luminous and contrasting color palette. It’s one of the few games that uses this style of art very well without devaluing itself. The sound in the game is clean and subtle, and the squeak and slide of my tires shredding dirt or gravel was great fun and never overwhelmed the audience.
LMD is an intense game that will definitely have you gripping the control levers as you leap over rocky gorges and race down them quickly. There is a test case here, but it has to do with a free-flowing mountain wall and not a linear level. I really liked the fact that if you really want to ride for fun and without frustration, you can just happily ride your track, but if you want that new soft outfit where you have to do the track in a little over a minute, you have to do the math, be precise, and have your soul in control. Few games allow the player to enjoy a game as dynamic as Lonely Mountain: Not only does the drop achieve this, but it makes you want to get some DLC in the form of Megavalanche Snow Run. Maybe you could add AI opponents to make the game a little less lonely?
Lonely mountains: Report of departure
- Charts – 8/10
- Sound – 7.5/10
- Gameplay – 8/10
- Late Call – 7/10
Final thoughts : GRAND
Lonely mountains: The descent captures the intensity of mountain biking in a clean, clear and accessible way that I thought was impossible. With semi-free paths that allow players to set their own, and challenges that require you to conquer a mountain to beat the time limit, there’s a lot of intense fun to be found here for the very reasonable price of $19.99.
Alex has been involved in the gaming industry since the release of Nintendo. He’s turned his hobby into a career, spending just over a decade developing games and now serving as creative director of the studio.
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