Games of the week – Lonely Mountains: Downhill, Table Top Racing: World Tour – Nitro Edition, House of Golf and VR Ping Pong Pro
Lonely Mountains: Downhill
Platform: PC, Mac, Xbox One, PS4
A two-wheeled adventure into nature
Lonely Mountains: Downhill really understands the charm and wonder of mountain biking. Because beyond the excitement of speed, the appeal of expensive hardware and the camaraderie of extreme sports, downhill biking is about playing with the natural world. The four mountains (each with several trails and challenges) are brilliantly designed and seem genuinely organic rather than man-made. You discover a shortcut, not learn it by instruction, and obstacles can often hide opportunities. Lonely Mountains has also perfectly captured the thrills of rapid expertise and seat-of-your-pants luck that makes the sport so addictive, and, despite a miserly approach to unlockable bikes, this is a wonderfully satisfying ride and perhaps the best mountain biking game ever made.
Skip to the end: A superb recreation of bombing around outdoors.
Table Top Racing: World Tour – Nitro Edition
As you'd expect from a racer, Table Top Racing: World Tour is going in circles. It started as a free-to-play mobile game, was souped up with extra tracks, modes and cars to do the console tour, and now returns to smartphones and tablets for a premium Nitro Edition. But all the DLC in the world can't disguise the shallowness of Table Top Racing's execution. Obviously the inspiration is Micro Machines, but there's none of the same humour or fun, either from the very boring weapons or the uninteresting race tracks, and the vehicles lack variety in handling and appearance, too. Touchscreen control is well implemented but overall there's a distinct lack of Nitro power in this plain and uninventive rerun.
Skip to the end: A simple micro racer with very limited ambitions.
House of Golf
Even crazy golf still demands skill in getting your stroke just right for that perfect approach shot or hole out. But House of Golf replaces the technicalities of striking the ball with an idiot-proof power gauge – all that remains of the actual 'golf' is the choice of how hard you want to hit the ball, and in what direction. There's very little 'crazy' either, as despite the odd bit of charming design to the Micro Machines-style courses (giant kitchen worktops, bedroom floors, etc) there's no fun interaction or challenging dynamism at work, so that each stage is a matter of smashing your ball into or around static obstacles until you reach the hole. House of Golf is way below par.
Skip to the end: This long walk is most definitely spoilt.
VR Ping Pong Pro
Table tennis ought to really work in VR. It's small-scale, simple and involves waving your arm around, but VR Ping Pong Pro (sequel to 2017's VR Ping Pong) can't fully capture the sport's snappy excitement. This new instalment at least has great atmosphere, from an idyllic park location complete with twittering wildlife to the low-light tension of a crowded arena, and flexible settings get you good and comfortable with height, table proximity and racquet orientation. Yet even the authentic 'ping' sound effects can't satisfyingly conjure the feel of that tiny ball, and hitting it successfully in virtual space doesn't match up enough with the real world experience, leaving VR Ping Pong Pro as nothing more than an adequate simulation.
Skip to the end: Impressively immersive but lacking real sporting skills.