Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. Lonely Mountains is a relatively straight forward downhill bike racer, focusing on reaching the bottom in ample time and with as few collisions as possible. There’s no procedural landscape generation, tricks or stunts, or online multiplayer functions – it’s just you, your trusty bike, and a perilous mountain range to hurtle down.
By keeping things bloat-free, Megagon Industries has been able to refine the core basics to perfection. With shortcuts waiting to be found by those willing to veer from the beaten path, the mountain ranges are smartly designed and surprisingly open. You may even find a resting spot – Lonely Mountains’ twist on collectables – which not only adds incentive to explore, but an unexpected air of serenity.
More importantly, the controls are remarkably tight. The bike’s turning circle is perfectly poised, and when in motion momentum is effortlessly gained. In conjunction with brakes that behave realistically, merely slowing you down rather than stopping on a dime, this allows tight corners to be navigated with skill and grace. It’s possible to pull off the occasional fluke too, gaining an unexpected burst of speed and making it through a bunch of hazards completely unscathed.
The whole thing is tied into a progression system which drip feeds new courses, challenges, customisation options, and improved bikes. Upon being presented with a new mountain range, the first challenge is always to simply reach the bottom – there’s no time limit or penalty for crashing too often. Once completed, new challenges then unlock, such as time trials with checkpoints sensibly placed around 20 seconds apart.
These trials can take several attempts to beat – memorising the mountain layout is essential, especially during the game’s exceedingly tricky second half. Thankfully, 2-3 challenges are often available at once, giving chance to choose which objective to tackle.
To top it all off, Lonely Mountains is something of a looker. We’ve seen a few games lately with flat-shaded visuals – including Jalopy, Effie, Massira, and Drowning – yet Lonely Mountains still manages to stand out. The low poly visuals are exceedingly eye-catching thanks to bright and vibrant colour schemes, with the autumnal forest being a highlight, and effects such as distance blurring are subtle.
By focusing on just a handful of ideas, Megagon has managed to create a remarkably refined experience. It isn’t perfect – the auto-tracking camera sometimes doesn’t zoom out far enough to alert of immediate danger, often resulting in the rider being sent airborne – but its mighty close. At a time when even humble indie games are often bloated with superficial features, Megagon should be commended for delivering such a small yet perfectly formed package.