Not every game I saw at Gamescom was a cartoon platformer. I also got a good preview of Descenders, a new free-riding bike game from Dutch studio RageSquid and the new Manchester, England-based publisher No More Robots.
The cool thing about it is the speed. The game lets you engage in extreme downhill biking with high-end 3D graphics. Each level that you play in the game is procedurally generated, so it’s a new experience every time you get on the track. I saw the game at the Unity booth at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany.
Mike Rose, cofounder of No More Robots, said in an interview that the developers tried to create a genuine feeling of what it feels like to ride a bike downhill. The grass on the side passes by you quickly to give you that sense of speed. But if you focus on the road ahead, you can do better.
You race through grass fields, woods, obstacle jumps, and it all goes by in a blur. If you hit something, you spin out of control in slow motion and fail the level. On the meta map, you can choose which way you want to go to get through each leg of the map. But if you crash, you lose one of your reputation points. And if you lose them all, then you may have to start over at the beginning. It’s a kind of permadeath, borrowed from Rogue-like games.
It creates consequences and tension. If you make one little mistake, it’s over. If you do a backflip on your last life, it’s a pretty tense gamble. The game supports a number of different play styles. You can try to maximize your time, or focus on doing tricks. It’s almost reminiscent of skateboarding games, as far as the controls you apply.
It’s coming out early next year on Steam, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and the Switch. The developers are taking sign-ups for a beta test now. I did not perform particularly well in playing Descenders, but I enjoyed it. Fortunately, I did not record my performance on video.