Newly-released downhill biking game Descenders sends you hurtling down a mountain at breakneck speeds. This is incredibly reckless, highly dangerous, and more than a little frightening – and you’ll probably love every second of it.
The tracks in Descenders are randomly generated and you can always pick between three tracks with different traits. If you do particularly well and complete an extra objective in each level, you gain an extra life. This often leads to you seeking out danger and performing death-defying stunts such as backflips, 360s, and other weird stuff – instead of playing it safe.
This way of chaining together random tracks works really well. It adds a sense of progression to an otherwise rather pointless activity and rewards you with new bikes and new clothes to wear – all of which are purely cosmetic, mind.
While the first set of levels has wide open spaces which allow you to just go around most obstacles, the second set requires perfect driving in a serpentine wooden area. It’s quite the difficulty spike.
If you run out of “lives”, the game sends you back to the very beginning – unless you manage to unlock new areas by repeatedly completing a terifying boss jump at the end of each set.
What might hold Descenders back the most is its reluctance to embrace the silliness of hurtling down a mountain and the ensuing hilarious mishaps. Jumping over a railroad bridge is ridiculous, no need to look like an earnest sports game while you’re doing it.
Give me something to laugh about! Give me top hats and monocles! Give me clown costumes or giant chicken suits! In its current state, the game seems almost too straightfaced. This is a hilarious arcade game, not a simulation! With their previous title Action Henk, RageSquid have proven that they can do funny, after all.
But then, this is an Early Access title. Who knows what else the developers come up with? (There seem to be placeholders for hats, so my prayers for more silliness will probably be heard.) The foundations are there, and they are more than solid. The progression system feels good and the addition of daily runs and leaderboards should provide some fierce competition.
You can purchase Descenders from Steam for $24.99. The game will also be coming to Xbox Game Preview soon. For more information, visit the game’s website or follow developer RageSquid on Twitter.
(Disclosure: former indiegames.com editor Mike Rose is publishing the game on his label No More Robots.)