The Little Ugly, Evil Guy On My Shoulder’s Verdict:
I dropped the dead weight as soon as possible and somehow I STILL DIDN’T WIN?! The hell. On the other hand, I did get to put my pole in a crack so I’m still counting this one as a triumph.
The Little Nice, Handsome Guy On My Shoulder’s Verdict:
I’m not a very competitive person by nature, but I think I might enjoy mountain running. If the real thing anything like the game, then having the opportunity to share the experience with a good pal is way more important and rewarding than the final result. Now that’s what I call winning!
A short meditation on competition and friendship. I enjoyed it thoroughly while it lasted, but I felt like it ended much too soon.
Game Type: Adventuron
Author Info: Dee Cooke is a British text adventurer, writer, editor, runner, and telephone booth enthusiast. She has written a number of Adventuron games which can be played on Itch.io. She blogs at Spirit of Dee, tweets on Twitter or whatever the hell they call it these days, and posts photos and art to her Instagram.
Play Online Link: https://dee-cooke.itch.io/the-last-mountain
Other Games By This Author:Waiting for the Day Train, Barry Basic and the Quick Escape, Goblin Decathlon, The Cave of Hoarding, and more!
I love it when a game sends me hurtling into a world I was only vaguely aware even existed. The Last Mountain does just that by placing you with little preparation into the role of a long distance runner competing in the annual Merrithorne Mountain Race alongside a close friend and racing partner, Susan. As depicted in the game, long distance mountain races are grueling, multi-day affairs that test both the body and the mind. That’s at the best of times, and these, it turns out, aren’t really the best of times.
What makes this race so different and challenging for our main character is that Susan is clearly not feeling up to snuff. She’s slowing the team down, which is a bit annoying considering you and her have been training hard for this for some time, but just what is wrong with her and how serious is it? She’s not telling, and her pride won’t let her quit the race. Susan’s sluggishness creates a sense of unease that permeates the game and quickly makes the stakes seem far higher than just winning or losing.
Her condition is the main source of conflict in the story. Ultimately, it’s up to the player to decide whether competing in the race or spending time with and supporting Susan is more important. You can view one as the asshole path and the other as the right, morally correct choice, but I honestly felt like either one could be justified depending on how you think about it and how you want to roleplay your character. I was much more inclined to be there for Susan because I was worried about her and wanted to share the experience together with her even at the cost of victory, but the thing is I’m not a competitive runner. I haven’t exactly been training for this fucking thing for months like the main character has. Susan could even be accused of being selfish for keeping her partner in the dark and knowingly compromising their performance by insisting on competing even while she was ailing. By all appearances, Susan has been a great friend, but of course as players we aren’t privy to all their past conversations, training sessions, and races.
I think what The Last Mountain does best is provide interesting outcomes almost no matter what you do. Supporting Susan is emotionally rewarding. Focusing on winning turns this mountain race into something of a guilt trip, but you do better in the race if you do so yay selfishness! Fucking up the race is also an option, and I think the main thing I got out of deliberately doing that was gaining a deeper appreciation of what a badass Susan really is. She may not be able to race fast in her present condition, but she’s always racing hard. One tough lady, indeed. That brings to mind the other thing the game does really well: even without going deep into her backstory, Susan is a pretty vividly drawn character. I didn’t walk away from any playthrough without feeling mad respect for her toughness and competitive spirit.
The puzzles all involve navigating mundane challenges you might realistically encounter during a race: gathering water when your flasks run dry, finding your way when you get lost, carefully navigating a particularly perilous section of the race, and so forth. I found the game to be generally well implemented and straightforward. It’s particularly impressive how there are multiple solutions to most obstacles that all make sense and feel natural. The fact that one puzzle (on the “fucking up the race” route) features a crack I took to be a RFTK shout-out of sorts, but maybe Dee just really likes featuring crack in her games. I mean cracks.
Dee did a really good job with the writing here. Mostly due to the presence of Susan, it’s a more emotional experience than Waiting for the Day Train was. However, our author also did a great job with the nuts and bolts of the story as well. Everything is well-described, including things you don’t really necessarily need to examine before advancing, and there’s excellent attention to detail throughout.
The blurb for this game on the ParserComp Itch page reads, “A short game about a long race.” That sums it up pretty well, but also highlights the greatest weakness of The Last Mountain in my view: it’s really short. Any given playthrough will take you about ten minutes. If you look around a lot and do enough runs to see all the outcomes, you’ll spend about an hour with it. For what it is, it’s very good and I recommend it, but I feel it could have been much more. A longer game could’ve better invoked the length and challenge of the race (which is, by all accounts, absolutely exhausting). It would have given Dee more opportunities to explore the relationship between the player character and Susan further as well. We could’ve had flashbacks of races past, more conversations, and of course more mishaps and obstacles to overcome. I definitely found myself yearning for more at the end of this one.
Simple Rating: 7/10
Complicated Rating: 37/50
Puzzle Quality: 7/10 (There’s nothing too difficult here, but I really enjoyed the fact that there were multiple ways to solve or fail the puzzles. That’s definitely something I’d like to see more of in IF!)
Parser Responsiveness: 7/10 (I would say this game is a slight improvement on Waiting for the Day Train on the parser side of things. There were still a few awkward moments here and there, but it was smooth sailing for the most part.)