At the end of a long day, we all have our favourite games to relax to. Some may find solace in a few rounds of Halo Infinite multiplayer, whilst others can unwind to a visual novel or something else entirely. These were my first thoughts when I started playing Downslope; could this be my new favourite ‘chill’ game? Then I learned what Downslope was really like.
This seemingly zen-like snowboarding game does start out just like that; a zen-like snowboarding game. Through a minimalistic design, players are lulled into a false sense of security that Downslope’s levels are more chilled than the snow you are carving. The lo-fi soundtrack only further emphasises that this is a relaxing game. Sure, a skeleton or two may pop-up and warn you of the perils of the mountain, but by this point I am so chill I’m almost lying horizontally on my snowboard.
You should heed the advice from these skeletons though. When they say that things will get trickier, they really mean. Downslope’s near 200 levels are split into sections that get progressively harder. Things start off gently enough; getting to the bottom of the level is your only major objective. You can choose to collect the three diamonds on each level or attempt a bail-less run, but you don’t have to.
Things quickly get turned up to 11 though. Soon you will have times to beat, flags to carve around, fire and lightning to dodge and other projectiles thrown at you. If you were attempting to earn a flawless rating for each level, you will quickly lose patience.
There is a racing line to follow, denoted by the faintest of blue markings on the snow. An arrow at the bottom of the screen will also point towards the general direction this racing line is. Stray from this path though and you face an uphill struggle to return to its relative safety. You’ll still be going downhill, but it’s a turn of phrase isn’t it?
These changes of pace and environment come at just the right time for Downslope to not feel tiresome. The sheer number of levels may be off-putting at first, but they are fairly short. Many come in at less than a minute to complete, and even then, there are plenty of even shorter ones. That is, providing you complete them on your first try. The main cause of frustration comes from the fact that Downslope doesn’t have a dedicated restart button. Unlike the Trials series has since it released – and there are comparisons to draw between the two – to restart in Downslope you need to enter the pause menu each time. It is a tiny criticism but knowing how many times you will likely be retrying these levels, it’s a noticeable issue.
To keep you going is the mystery surrounding these skeletons. Forced to reside on the mountain after their runs have ended in disaster, it isn’t made clear whether they are there to help or hinder you. One time, they may warn you of impending doom, and then the next will laugh at you for continuing. Often, they will bicker amongst themselves.
Whatever they offer though, it is drip fed to you. Appearing only briefly every three or four levels, I can’t say they add a whole lot in all honesty.
As well as this main mode – known as The Descent – you have other options at your disposal. Racing mode allows upto four players to race against each other locally on any of the unlocked courses. If you thought things could be chaotic with just one rider, wait until you try four-player Downslope splitscreen.
You can even attempt the entirety of The Descent in cooperative play if that tickles your fancy.
To stand out from the crowd, you can customise your riders’ outfit and colours. More options such as different board designs, hats, scarves and more can be unlocked as you complete level objectives. Beating target times, collecting the diamonds and perfect runs all contribute to your Style level.
There is also a music section where you can listen to the in-game songs whilst not hurtling down the mountain. These also contain links to the artist’s social media should you wish to explore them more.
On the subject of the soundtrack, it changes with each new environment you face. The opening music is soothing, whilst later offerings are quintessentially considered chillhop by today’s standards. Early on, the music will accompany the relaxing gameplay, but later on you get the feeling it is there to calm you down.
There is a fairly good game in Downslope, hidden away beneath unnecessary difficulty and exposition. Had this been an endless runner in the same vein as sliding down mountains in The Alto Collection it would be much more enjoyable. It’ll lull you into a false sense of security, but Downslope is straight down the middle.
Head out off piste in Downslope from the Xbox Store