I recently came across this very interesting “game” which allows players to experience what it is like to be a mountain. It’s called an “ambient procedural mountain game”, a “mountain simulator”, and a “relax ‘em up”. If you saw that description, wouldn’t you want to find out, what the f?
MTN is this strange, unique display of a mountainside that you create, based on your own drawings, and then watch for 50 hours as life goes on around it. We sat down with the app for as many hours as possible and have a review of MTN for you below…
Your mountain’s shape, season, and varying attributes are determined by a series of drawings you are asked to create when you first open the app. You will see a blank white canvas with a word, like “birth” or “sadness” and you will have to draw something on the screen. It doesn’t matter what or how well it is drawn. The information is then used to create your mountain. I have no idea what determines the design and landscape or what different attributes are altered by the artwork at the beginning.
After your mountain is created, you’ll begin the “game.” I have the word game in quotes because, although this title is in the games category, it offers no preconceived gaming functions or controls.
The screen shows your mountain’s peak, the foliage you’ve created, and background weather. Depending on the time in the game, it could be day, night, raining, snowing, or clear and sunny.
That’s all there is to the design. There are no controls or goals. There is a musical keyboard simulation across the bottom of the screen, which I’ve heard speeds up time, but it is difficult to tell. Touch the bottom of the screen to make music based on two eight-note scales.
From this point on, all you have to do is watch.
“Gameplay” doesn’t seem to be the right descriptor for this review, but nothing seems to be the proper descriptor anyway. As noted above, there are not controls or goals. The game’s developer, David O’Reilly, explained to me in an email, “The idea is to keep it running in the background while you do other things.”
I imagine the concept is similar to a life simulation game like The SIMS or Rollercoaster Tycoon, but with a mountain. The thing is, mountains don’t do much except erode over thousands of years. So, as the controller of the simulation, you don’t do much either.
You can spin your mountain around by swiping your finger across the screen horizontally. You can change the angle to see the top of the peak or the earth underneath by dragging your finger across the screen vertically. Zoom outward to see your mountain as a singular world in a vast universe. It puts a little perspective on things.
As the seasons pass, you’ll see rain and snowfall. The trees on the mountain will turn shades of red and orange. Days will turn into nights. A green glow will emanate from vegetation on the hillside in the dark. Clouds will roll peacefully by. The tranquil sounds of nature can be heard all the while and sometimes, ambient music will appear.
Every 10 minutes or so, the mountain will speak. It will say things like, “I am sad about this clear summer night” or “I adore this quiet evening.”
I’ve watched my mountain for a few hours now and have noticed a number of new additions to the landscape. Early on, a meteor hit the side of the hill, but disappeared by morning. Throughout the day, things like a sword, a bunch of bananas, a slice of cake, and a fire extinguisher have all found their resting place on my mountain. I have no idea why, but I like seeing new items appear every once in a while when I check back in with it.
According to O’Reilly, there are 50 hours of gameplay and the game has a definitive end. I’ll have to get back to you with the ending event. However, I may not want to ruin the surprise.
This abstract unique version of a game asks the user to question what it means to recreate the simulation of life. It requires its player to have patience with the transformation and changes in the world around it. I find this type of content very interesting and worth exploring.
Players only get one mountain at a time. Once your mountain has been generated, you can’t start over with a new one. I appreciate the concept, but I want to know what different types of mountains I can make with my drawings. It would be fun if the mountain creation portion of the game were a separate mode so we could play around with it.
MTN costs $0.99, which is just right for this game. Since there are no controls and no goals, the game acts more like a meditation app than anything else. The replay value is very high since it takes 50 hours to get through the game to find out what happens at the end. Then, you’ll want to create a new mountain to see what will happen next.
This game is interesting enough to be something that just about everyone should try. Sure, there are a few diehard gamers out there that may not want to waste time with something so abstract. But, for the rest of us, this is definitely a game worth 50 hours of your time. Download it in the App Store today.