App of the Day: MTN / by James Kelleher


MTN is not a product of focus groups or exhaustive quantitive research into unmet consumer needs. The answer to “what’s missing in your life?” will never be “a mountain simulator”. And yet. MTN has hovered around the top 30 paid iPhone apps in the US App Store since its release, which means that a kerbillion (± 1Kbn) people are getting their rocks on right now.

MTN’s creator David O'Reilly is an artist/animator best known for his work on Adventure Time, Spike Jonze’s Her and the demented brilliance of his short film The External World (whose title card echoes the zoomed-out cosmos view in MTN). He’s also done music videos for Venetian Snares and ‘The Irish Venetian Snares’, U2.

When the app launches for the first time you’re asked to draw a couple of pictures of 'Afterlife’ or 'Beauty’ and your mountain is procedurally generated from these scrawls. At least, that’s the idea. There’s no way to relate your pictures to anything that happens from that point on, so it might as well be random. Serious spoilers follow, so consider yourself well warned. Your mountain appears and rotates slowly. Sometimes it rains; sometimes it snows. Foliage appears; it gets dark. Every once in a blue moon, something crashes into the mountain. You can spin the view or zoom in and out, or play a little tune on an invisible keyboard at the bottom third of the screen. Oh, and your mountain occasionally chirps pseudo-profundities every once in a while. That’s it. There’s every chance that something revelatory happens after the promised “50 hours of gameplay”, but I won’t be among those sticking around to find out. [Edit: Eli Hodapp beat MTN and captured the ending on video.] It should be noted that the sound design is nice in a luxury spa resort soundtrack sort of way.

There’s little of The External World’s dark subversion on show here, unless you count the fact of millions of people watching a low-poly mountain spin on a screen for hours at a time, consuming vast quantities of megawatts to no real end.

In summary, then: MTN is either a timely satire on a vacuous consumer culture obsessed with novelty, or a pointless waste of your dwindling hours on this planet. Get it for iOS, Mac or PC if you must.