Review – Descenders (PS4)

With the exception of the very niche (and very underwhelming) Tour de France games, and the copious hours spent burning CJ’s calories in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, I don’t think I can remember of any other cycling game being released over the past two decades or so. That changed the moment developer RageSquid and publisher No More Robots released Descenders for PC and Xbox One in 2019. It’s a game centered around riding a bike down a hill, all while performing tricks and generally trying not to crash your rib cage onto a nearby tree. A year has passed since the game’s original release, with it now being finally available for the PS4. The time has come to check out this port.


You can jump in between the beams of a watchtower. I was going to make a Firewatch joke, but the game ended up doing that for me instead.

Descenders features a very simple yet ingenious gameplay loop. As previously mentioned, it’s a simple downhill cycling game, in which you have to go from point A to point B, all while performing tricks to increase your score and trying to avoid falling down or hitting obstacles. The catch is that every single level is randomly generated and you’ll keep on playing gradually more difficult runs until you eventually run out of continues. You can acquire new continues (or “lives”) by finishing a run while completing a random objective, such as performing a 360, reaching the bottom of the level without ever braking your bike (easier said than done), or reaching the goal in thirty seconds or less.

In true roguelike fashion, you can unlock perks throughout your runs, in the form of additional “crew members”. These friendly fellas can help reduce the amount of obstacles in your tracks, improve your bike’s balance, and so on. You can freely choose which paths you’ll take during your cycling tour, but you will eventually have to tackle a “boss run”. This is comprised of a tricky section that ends with a massive jump, in order to proceed to the next locale. If you manage to beat the same boss run a couple of times, you’ll be able to start future tours from those new locales onwards, massively improving the game’s overall replayability factor.


If you really want to throw up, I recommend playing the first-person mode levels.

One thing that really impressed me was Descenders‘ controls. Sure, the physics are a bit off-putting at first (this runs on Unity and that engine doesn’t have the best physics out there), but you can quickly get used to it. The controls are surprisingly very intuitive, revolving around the constant usage of the right analog stick to perform jumps, with the left analog stick being used to both steer and flip your bike while in the air. You accelerate and brake with the right and left triggers as usual. The only thing that holds the gameplay back a bit is the somewhat inconsistent framerate. It’s completely unlocked, meaning that it completely varies depending on the amount of trees and obstacles being rendered onscreen at any given time.

Visually, Descenders isn’t anything special, but it gets the job done. Being a game that revolves around procedurally generated levels means that it goes overboard with the amount of reused assets being thrown onscreen. At the very least, it does feature some occasionally interesting lighting effects and some decent animations. The soundtrack ended up being a surprising delight, being comprised of a limited, butt pretty good selection of drum & bass songs that fit in perfectly with the game’s fast pace.


Hey look, it’s that bridge from Forza Horizon 4.

All in all, Descenders surprised me in a very positive way. If anything, it’s a very unique concept, mixing downhill cycling, a Skate-inspired dual-stick trick system and some roguelike elements. Sure, it’s a bit ugly and a bit janky, but considering the disappointing lack of extreme sports games being released over the past few years, this is a very welcome breath of fresh air. You don’t even need to be a cycling enthusiast in order to enjoy it. I sure as hell am not one of those. If you’re just looking for a small but addictive sports game to keep you busy until the eventual release of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2, go for it. You could do a lot worse.


Graphics: 6.5

It’s not a bad looking game, as it features some decent lighting effects and animations, but it’s full of reused assets, as well as an unreliable framerate.

Gameplay: 8.0

The physics are a bit off-putting at first, but you’ll quickly get used to it and the controls in general. It’s surprisingly intuitive, but it’s slightly hampered by the game’s occasionally inconsistent framerate.

Sound: 7.5

Descenders‘ sound department is basically comprised of some surprisingly catchy licensed drum & bass songs, as well as the sound of your bones shattering whenever you collide with a tree.

Fun Factor: 8.5

Descenders is challenging, unique, and very replayable. I really liked its pseudo-roguelike elements, as well as its simple yet interesting trick system. It could have been a little bit better if it wasn’t for its uneven performance, but it’s still an easy recommendation for extreme sports fans.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Descenders is available now on PS4, Xbox One and PC.

Reviewed on PS4.

A copy of Descenders was provided by the publisher.