I want to ride my bi-cy-cle

Sometimes I feel bad for Kyle. We were talking about extreme sports games, as dudes do, and this eventually led to him playing Shredders and me playing Lonely Mountains: Downhill. He got the fuzzy side of the lollypop on this exchange. His review will tell you the details so I won’t elaborate much, but it certainly wasn’t ideal. I, on the other hand, got a game of action, excitement, and teeth-gritting intensity. A good game. I won at writing reviews for a website, is what I’m saying. Sorry pal. (Respectfully go fuck yourself – K)

LMD doesn’t start soft. Early on every pebble shot out from under your bike will give you anxiety, every turn makes you want to hit the brakes, every ramp makes you phone your family and tell them you love them. Eventually you’ll get to a point where dirt sprays violently as you fire down the trail and you won’t flinch a bit. Excelling at LMD demands that you develop a will of iron, nerves of steel, and knees of hydraulic. I cannot tell you how many times I thought the worst of a trail’s hazards was behind me only to have my front wheel gently caress Mother Gaia’s left asscheek and send my skull through my handlebars.

The game couldn’t play simpler. Movement, a pedal button, a brake, and a sprint button complete with a boost gauge. I opted for directional steering instead of positional left-right, which only sounded increasingly difficult as I progressed through the game’s mountains. It’s the routes themselves that offer the obstacles, demanding study in order to learn the route then offering challenges that require you to get creative to make tight times. This process involves falling a lot. You will get there, eventually riding a line that looks like a BMX highlight video, but it’ll require an entire Jackass movie’s worth of pain in the process. Make no mistake, this is a good thing. The only thing more satisfying than landing the stunt of the century is faceplanting in the funniest ways possible.

I found the game largely ran smooth, with no amount of falling leaves or water flowing causing lag or affecting performance. I say “largely” because about once a session I’d experience a bizarre hitch with no obvious consistent cause that would inevitably get me killed. Didn’t matter which environment, what I was doing, just a half second pause then the game rapidly catching up. My theory, and it’s probably wrong, is that this is due to the game demanding a constant internet connection so that it can upload everyone’s times for every checkpoint. If I’m right that’s not ideal, but this is the kind of game that demands times be posted for competition so it’s a concession I’m willing to make.

Make no mistake, this game is a speedrunner’s dream. The physics are as intricate as they are consistent, allowing you to cook up weird little skips that were absolutely not all intended by the developers. This is where bike choice matters immensely. Heaps of speed and sprint meter may help you make incredible time if you can maintain control, but you may prefer to mountain goat your way down a sheer cliff with a more suspension-focused ride. A tip – dying on a checkpoint still counts!

Unlocks progress at a satisfying clip. Clear a challenge, get a thing, simple as. These consist of things like bike parts (basically currency), new routes, and my favorite, night mode for each mountain. Besides having its own suite of challenges that tend to be more focused on simply not dying over speed, night mode is also the game at its most visually stunning. Your ability to navigate will be significantly affected by which way you point your headlight, casting shadows off of every plant and pebble, transforming what was once a familiar trail into a menacing maze of hidden hazards. It’s an amazing way to remix what are already interesting and replayable trails into something that feels wholly distinct despite having explored it before.

And it’s the inherent joy of extreme exploration that makes LMD an especially easy recommendation. It won’t shatter your expectations – don’t expect a SkiFree yeti to appear and chase you down – but it consistently surprised me with how much beauty and excitement it delivered from its simple premise. Embracing gravity and refusing to die is a special kind of thrill.

Reviewed on Xbox Game Pass.