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Surmount is pretty much everything I love in one game

Hang about.

Climbing is just about my favourite thing to do in games. It took me a while to realise this. It took me a while to realise that the thing I love about Crackdown, say, and Grow Home is actually the same thing: they're both games that give you something massive to scale and an interesting way to do it. (I agree, incidentally: this probably should have been obvious sooner.)

Anyway, I was very glad to see that climbing games were a bit of a mini-trend during this year's summer showcases. Over on Xbox there's Jusant, Don't Nod's latest, and a game that sees you climbing through a rich, Gaudi-tinged sci-fi world, working your way higher and higher. Cannot wait. But what really snagged on my imagination was Surmount, which got a blisteringly fast introduction during the Wholesome Direct. And it turns out there's a demo now on Steam!

Go and play it. Srsly. This demo is wonderful. I'm pretty sure Surmount's going to be wonderful. I'm pretty sure it's my game of this year's summer showcases.

On the climbing continuum I would put Surmount somewhere between Grow Home, with which it shares a control scheme that sees you manipulating each grabbing hand with its own trigger, and something like Climbing Flail, an iOS charmer that is never out of rotation in our house. Climbing Flail is basically a physics toy: you pull back and let go and your ragdoll climber shoots up into the sky and hopefully catches onto something. In Surmount, then, you left-and-right your way over rock faces - the game is 2D but there's a lovely sense of chunky depth to it - but you can also spin yourself wildly and then let go to let the momentum carry you. Hopefully higher up the mountain. You have to get the timing right.

Surmount trailer.Watch on YouTube

These elements come together in a game that sees climbing as a shrieking, impetuous scramble. You pay attention to the terrain, to the different rock types, to tether points and ledges, and you keep an eye on your own stamina ring, which needs to rebuild when you're resting - yes, there's a bit of Zelda in the mix. But on top of all that, you give yourself to moments of blind upward hope. You grab and spin and swing. Where will you land? What will you find?

The demo allows you a decent chunk of mountain to play with - perhaps even more than that, as on my go it crashed near the end so I didn't see everything. And the mountain's just lovely. There's a great sense of upward momentum to the way it's constructed, but there are also plenty of moments to duck aside and find a secret area. There are gem shards to collect and fruit to eat, which restores parts of your stamina wheel that have been shaken away by hanging on to the rock too long. Now and then you meet another climber or an animal. I got kicked by a deer. I got stuck in spider webs. I climbed up an old water wheel that was bolted onto the cliff. It was magic.

What I love most about climbing games, I think, is the fact that here are game worlds you can actually grab hold of - and you feel that grip, magically, transported through the screen, the pad triggers, and into your hands. Surmount has a lovely tactile nature. For all its surface silliness, and much like Climbing Flail, there's some really serious thought that's gone into this one.

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