Lonely Mountains: Downhill review – a celebration of landscape

October 18, 2019
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Games are not good with nothing. They take nothing and they have to fill it, with guns and targets, sure, but also with XP and challenges and Jimmy Lightning popping in to tell you how brilliant you are. But nothing can be nice. Nothing can be soothing. Nothing can be a game with the wisdom to leave you alone with your own thoughts, a game that simultaneously encourages your thoughts to flock and scatter the way they normally don’t.

Lonely Mountains is not built of nothing, of course. There is a soaring artistry at work in the way the low-poly landscapes you race through are put together. There is an ideal kind of rickety momentum to the physics as you hurtle from the top of one slope all the way down to the bottom. And yes, you complete challenges and you unlock things – new bike parts, new trails, whole new mountains. There are achievements and all sorts of secrets to hunt for.

But still! At the heart of it is wilderness and a sense of absence. The title says it all: it’s you, by yourself, biking a trail, getting from the top to the bottom as quickly and as safely as you can. Or take your time. Or wipe out as much as you fancy, the full-stop of collision bringing the wayward, dreamy sentences forming in your mind to a sudden conclusion. Do what you want. Ignore the stuff you’re not interested in. Take the bike and go!

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