This fun and frustrating mountain-climbing game is worth the hike

Key art for Surmount
Jasper Oprel and Indiana-Jonas

For whatever reason, the internet seems to love mountain-climbing games. Some of the most viral games of the last several years on platforms like Twitch have been titles like Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy and Only Up! — games where it’s difficult to climb up something and the punishment for failure is massive. If you’ve found yourself playing or watching content about those kinds of games, then you’ll want to check out one of the first notable games to come out this May: Surmount.

Released by indie developer duo Jasper Oprel and Indiana-Jonas, Surmount is a roguelite where players climb and fling themselves up a huge mountain. The way players have to swing around is reminiscent of Getting Over It, but its controls have a lot in common with the somewhat obscure Game Boy Advance title DK: King of Swing. The controls take a bit of getting used to, but that’s part of the fun with these games. Surmount is the latest in a long line of hilarious climbing games.

A single player climbs in Surmount.
Jasper Oprel and Indiana-Jonas

After a brief tutorial, Surmount begins with players arriving at the town of New Tully, which is at the base of a large mountain called Mount Om that mysteriously changes form for everyone who climbs up it. After getting a pass to explore the mountain from someone named Kenzie, players can start the journey up Mount Om. Of course, that’s easier said than done.

Like DK: King of Swing, this is a 2D climbing game where each of the player character’s hands is assigned to a trigger, and players can orient themselves with the control stick after grabbing something with one of their hands. Basic climbing has me slowly alternating triggers to ascend up a surface and occasionally using some items to help, but the real fun in Surmount comes when I have to fling myself. While gripping onto a surface in the background, I can use the control stick to quickly spin myself around. With enough momentum, I can then launch myself.

Getting the timing down for this is extremely tricky. Early on, I failed most of the time and sent myself plummeting downward because I mistimed when I should’ve let go of my swing. At times, that got frustrating. Thankfully, the visual of flinging these Muppet-like humans great distances and slamming into a wall was funny enough to keep me going.

Two players hanging on a rope in Surmount.
Surmount supports co-op as well, which makes climbing even more wacky of an experience. Jasper Oprel and Indiana-Jonas

If the idea of losing a lot of progress scares you, Surmount’s design accounts for that. First, there are bite-sized challenge levels to complete if you’d prefer something shorter and more handcrafted compared to the long climb up a mountain. Then, whenever you decide to actually ascend Mount Om, the roguelite structure means everyone is on an equal playing field for each run because its design is randomized, and you can possibly get better with each run.

Still, I wouldn’t fear failure too much; those moments are what games like Surmount are all about. Games that emphasize climbing have resonated with players because of the emergent moments of failure they enable. It’s hilarious to watch someone misjudge a movement and lose lots of progress as a result, and infuriating when you do it yourself. The feeling of you or somebody else overcoming that kind of challenge is equally as satisfying. Surmount checks all of those boxes just right, so I think it’s a worthwhile indie to check out for those who’ve enjoyed games like it before.

If you want to give it a shot, Surmount is available now for PC and Nintendo Switch.

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