[Review] Lonely Mountains: Downhill – Nintendo Switch

Written by Kevin Scully
  • Developer: Megagon Industries
  • Publisher: Thunderful
  • Release date: 07/05/2020
  • Price: £17.99 / $19.99
  • Review code provided by Thunderful

Introducing: Lonely Mountains Downhill Switch Review

Lonely Mountains: Downhill will lure you in with soft pastel, low-poly visuals and peaceful natural sound effects… before smashing your face against a rock and flinging you off a cliff edge. Getting to the bottom of the mountain is one thing, doing it with all your bones intact is another thing entirely.

The closest comparison I have is to the Trials series from RedLynx; extremely unforgiving time attack gameplay, where an entire run can be made or ruined by a split second decision. Where Lonely Mountains differs from Trials HD is the overall mood created. Here, you’re lulled into a false sense of security by the peaceful chirping of birds and the gentle flow of a stream before the tranquillity is broken by the repeated thud of your body hitting the deck. 

After successful launches on everything else at the tail end of 2019, Lonely Mountain now peddles frantically onto the Nintendo Switch, the only console where playing while actually up a mountain on your bike is a possibility.  

Making Skidmarks

Lonely Mountains: Downhill is a semi-3D downhill time trial experience, you start up on a plateau and make your way through checkpoints on the ‘official’ path down. The trick is in finding little corners to cut, in braving drops off mini cliffs, and risking your neck on a dodgy bit of terrain.  As you progress, the first run down any trail is in ‘Explorer’ mode – the HUD is removed and no times or crashes are recorded, so it’s the time to soak in the new surroundings and prepare yourself to try and hoon your way down these same paths soon. 

The process of unlocking new mountains, new trails, and new bikes is all tied to completing challenges; think  less than a certain number of crashes or beating a time for the whole run. While this can be frustrating if you get stuck, it also pushes you to explore a little, clip off some milliseconds and clean up your run.

A complete run from the top to the bottom of any given trail is normally in the 2-3 minute range, so finding extra seconds across the checkpoints is key. 

I Want to Ride My Bicycle

The game goes for the indie game style du jour; low poly with a rich colour scheme, and a nice variety across the four mountains you’ll visit in the game. Occasionally there are moments where clarity has been compromised, the fixed camera not quite showing the ideal angle for descent. Making an entirely unfair comparison to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 does reveal some issues with the Switch port. You notice jagged edges in both docked and handheld mode that appear razor sharp on other consoles. 

However the use of audio cannot be faulted. There is no music throughout the game, rather it’s a tranquil mix of bird song, running natural streams and gentle breeze. While it sounds like an obscure thing to praise, I’d also like to point out that the sound effects for the skid of your tires through dirt is perfect and so satisfying when it accompanies a last minute brake along a cliff edge. 

Tour De Chance

Lonely Mountains: Downhill has some of the best leaderboard usage I’ve seen on the Nintendo Switch. As you pass checkpoints you’ll be told if you’ve beaten your own personal time, if you’ve posted the best daily time, or if you’re lucky enough to play pre-release, whether you’ve just posted the world record. I imagine that record was broken mere minutes after the game unlocked on the eShop.

I preferred playing in handheld mode. Something about the immediacy and closeness pulled better times out of me, upping my game from my laid back couch sessions in docked mode. Throwing the game up on a large television does expose some of the visual issues in the switch port that are much more tolerable on a smaller scale. 

Lonely Mountains: Downhill on the surface looks like a quaint indie title, but start to descend that mountain and you’ll find cut-throat time trials and demanding courses that can be enjoyed for their natural beauty and conquered as you experiment with daring short cuts. A total of sixteen trials across four mountains can feel short, but each one hides an unknown number of extra paths for the dedicated leaderboard chaser to discover.

Pros

  • Time trial perfection
  • Audio bliss
  • The joy of exploration

Cons

  • Switch port suffers graphically
  • Occasional fixed camera difficulty
  • Could be longer

Verdict
A sharp time trial racer that will have you throwing yourself down a ravine in the hope of shaving milliseconds off your records, and as you fall, birdsong and a sense of tranquillity will wash over you. 
4/5

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