If you’ve got a few spare minutes on a subway train or bus or even a few solid hours on a plane, Descenders is a great roguelike that focuses on extreme cycling. It’s fast-paced, rewards star power, and also offers some pretty hilarious deaths for those of you like me that struggle with racing games. Still, Descenders bought me a few solid hours as I hurtled through the air in a flying metal tube, and I could not be more grateful.
Editor’s Note: Check out our review of Descenders for consoles and the PC.
Descenders isn’t a plot-heavy game. It’s literally the player hurtling down procedurally generated courses, working up to flashy stunts, and collecting items. Hopefully, you avoid dying, but really, it’s an inevitability. The question is whether you as the player can put it off as long as possible.
Generally, each track requires about a minute to complete, and while the tracks themselves are procedurally generated, they are linked in a series that ultimately leads toward a “boss track.” Well, theoretically, they do anyway. I never quite made it. While your goal is, of course, to finish the track, each track also features a randomly generated objective such as finishing the track in a set amount of time or performing a certain series of stunts. Achievements earn you perks like better crew members, bikes, and other related items. Descenders offers a wide variety, so if you’re an item collector, you’re definitely going to enjoy this game. The tracks themselves offer a refreshing variety, so you won’t find yourself getting bogged down in repetitive gameplay, which is really fantastic when it comes to a mobile game.
That was the good. However, as a mobile port, Descenders relies on touchscreen controls, with all the issues that those entail. Surviving the courses requires a really deep, granular control over your cyclist, and touch controls just don’t offer the level of control needed. There’s always just a bit too much lag between the motions you make and when you want your cyclist to make them. Plus, if you’re not careful (or experiencing turbulence), you might not be aware that your thumbs are drifting too far one way or the other.
Descenders does offer support for peripheral controllers, but honestly, if you’re playing the game on a phone, these are impractical. I can see Descenders playing better on an iPad or other tablet that supports the peripherals. As it is, the game’s biggest drawback lies with the controls because in a game that focuses on speed, having laggy controls renders the game often frustratingly unforgiving.
Visually, Descenders is a fantastic port that doesn’t actually require all that much out of your phone. I played on an iPhone 8+, and the device handled the game without issue beyond the touchscreen problems discussed above. I didn’t play with sound because I was on a plane, so I can’t really comment. However, the encoders did such a fantastic job with the port, I can only imagine that the sound is up to snuff as well.
Despite the control issue, Descenders offers a really fun take on the roguelike genre, and honestly, it shouldn’t work as well as it does. However, despite everything, I found Descenders to be worth the hassle.
Parents should have no concerns when allowing children to play the game aside from the same frustrations adult players will experience, and there isn’t really an issue with having to put the game down to do other things, like deplane.
You can purchase Descenders on the App Store for the incredibly reasonable price of $9.99.
Stray Thoughts From Behind the Keyboard
- I really want to play the game on my PC now. As much as I enjoyed playing with the dodgy controls, I wonder how having tighter control over the cyclist would affect the game.
- I mean it that there’s enough variety because with the perspective shifts that alter gameplay, Descenders never gets old, which makes it a great game to play on a three hour plane ride. Just saying.
- The risk to reward ratio remains pretty high throughout the game, but some of those tracks offer an interesting trade-off: double the health loss for double the reputation accumulation.