Elegance personified.

I’m a sucker for archery in video games. That and horses. It’s probably why I love Shadow of the Colossus so much. And My Little Pony: Crossbow Edition. But bringing archery to mobile devices hasn’t always been the winner that I’d have hoped it would be.

And then there was A Ride into the Mountains.

Ride tells the story of a young boy who climbs a mountain to save an ancient relic from – wait for it – EVIL!! If the story sounds a little generic, don’t worry: the actual gameplay is anything but. All you’ll need to remember is boy on horse = good, shadow creatures = bad.

You’ll ride atop your horse and take on the forces of evil with your trusty bow, which controls as smoothly and efficiently as you’re hoping. And it should, considering the influence. The archery mechanics here take a page from the Angry Birds “pull and release” method, giving players control over both the direction and velocity of each arrow. The farther back you pull, the farther the arrow will fly.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen archery in a mobile game, but it’s definitely the first time we’ve seen it done this right. Both Temple Run: Brave and Hunger Games: Girl On Fire stand out as examples of archery that should have been brilliant, but instead managed to fall flat. With A Ride into the Mountains, there are no similar complaints to be had. 

 A Ride into the Mountains

Levels come in two forms: sidescrolling and top-down. Despite how different both feel in play, they manage to share all of the same gameplay mechanics. That said, the change in perspective really does change the way you’ll think about the game’s challenges. The top-down levels have an almost puzzle vibe to them, with more than a few of the stages providing an “a-ha!” moment once you’ve figured out the best angle to aim your bow. A Ride into the Mountains is as much about figuring out how to defeat enemies as it is the combat itself.

And while two alternating styles may sound repetitive on paper, the game never fails to introduce fresh elements in every level (and concludes each with a boss fight that puts your mastery of these to the test). What’s more, the experience continues to build on those elements the further you progress.

For example, early on you’ll earn a new skill: focus. Focus is essentially bullet time, and at first you’ll only use it to slow things down and improve your accuracy. But pretty quickly you’ll find yourself needing it to line up impossible shots that bend with the wind, or – when it evolves – firing as many arrows as you can before it runs out in a desperate attempt to survive. It’s that sort of naturally evolving gameplay that so few developers manage to get right. The team of Chia-Yu Chen and Lee-Kuo Chen should be commended.

 A Ride into the Mountains

They should both get a high five for presentation as well. A Ride into the Mountains may use a minimalisti pixel style, but the game conveys a tremendous sense of atmosphere throughout. Little touches, like how detailed the horse’s running appears, or the parallax scrolling in the background, speak volumes about the level of care and polish that went into this title. It’s absolutely dripping with style.

A Ride into the Mountains won’t last you more than an hour, but it doesn’t need to. You’ll enjoy every one of those 60 minutes. Ride is the sort of experience that’ll hook you from its first moment and leave you completely satisfied in the end. It’s downright elegant in its presentation and gameplay. Don’t miss this one.