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Community Article: Indie Insights - Lonely Mountains: Downhill

Written by John Edwards

Lonely Mountains: Downhill somehow manages to be equal parts tranquillity and terror. A peaceful, relaxing world where brutal death lurks around every corner. The birdsong punctuated with the sound of breaking bones.

In Lonely Mountains: Downhill, your goal is to cycle your way down to the bottom of a mountain. Along the way are various checkpoints and at the end, a campsite, which you presumably set up before traipsing all the way up to the top just before flinging yourself down the various tracks the mountain holds.

Fortunately, this isn't the real world, so launching yourself over a precipice and ending up as a crumpled mess at the bottom of a ravine only prompts you to press A to try again. The speed of restarting after each crash encourages you to take risks and go off the beaten path, which the game will reward you for doing.

There is an obvious path to follow to get to the next checkpoint, but with some careful observation and experimentation, you'll find shortcuts that chop swathes off your trip downwards. Often you'll reach a checkpoint and see what is obviously the end of another path right before the line and you'll feel compelled to find out where that route started. There are four mountains in the game (a fifth as DLC) and multiple trails to follow down the mountains and then seemingly endless shortcuts. Lonely Mountains: Downhill is not short of stuff for you to do.

The game challenges you to take on all these routes in different ways, you'll be rewarded for finishing under certain times or with fewer than a set number of crashes. I found it easier to hammer my way through sections as fast as possible, crashing with a frequency that would embarrass a stunt driver. Then I'd go for a cautious, inch by inch, steady as you go descent to have as few crashes as possible. The mountains also offer a nerve-wracking challenge to follow the entire routes without crashing once. If you hit a tree just before the campsite you'll wake up at the top of the mountain and have to do it all again.

On top of this are leaderboards to compare your attempts with your friends and undoubtedly a lot of people from around the world who are much better at it than you. There are daily ride too which come in seasons. Compete to earn points to get more customisation options and bragging rights, if you're better than I am anyway. 

Fortunately with all these challenges to complete it's a joy to wend your way down these slopes over and over. Each peak has its own feel and biome, from lush greenery to dusty canyons. The game has a gorgeous angular graphical style that really gives you the feeling of being dwarfed by the huge mountains you're cycling down.

The ambience is further enhanced by the wonderful soundtrack which eschews the usual musical backing for the sounds of nature and the crunch of your tyres on gravel. There's a serenity to be found out in nature and Lonely Mountains: Downhill has encapsulated that in its minimalist approach.

I remember when the game first came out I was a little put off by it by thinking it'd be like the Trials games which I typically find quite stressful, but Lonely Mountains: Downhill is so different in how it feels. Much like with Mini Metro, it has a very zen-like feel to the gameplay, where you can relax and enjoy the ride, even when you're crashing into rocks at 30mph. It's a game that really nails the soothing tranquillity of being out in nature while also giving you a lot of stuff to do while you're there.