By Dan Moren
February 26, 2018 8:10 AM PT
Alto’s Odyssey: More of the same, but better
Note: This story has not been updated for several years.
Endless runners are not usually my cup of tea. There’s something about that “endless” aspect that usually tires me after a while–it feels fruitless and futile, and the fun goes out of it.
But if you’re going to do a game of this genre, you’re going to be hard-pressed to do better than Alto’s Odyssey. The followup to Alto’s Adventure sees our titular snowboarder migrate to more arid climes, and the team at Snowman has upped the ante considerably in the three years since that game’s release.
The mechanics of Alto’s Odyssey are largely similar to its predecessor: you’re coasting down slopes and you can tap on the screen to make Alto (or any of the other snowboarders) do a jump or tap and hold for a backflip. Along the way you collect coins, attempt to complete challenges, and outrun the occasional lemur. If you’re looking for a totally new game, you’re not going to find it here, but if you enjoyed Alto’s Adventure, chances are you’ll appreciate what’s the same about Alto’s Odyssey: it’s more of the same, only better.
What sets this game apart from so many of the endless runners is the ridiculous amount of polish. I’d thought the previous game was among the most beautiful I’d played at the time, and Alto’s Odyssey leaves it in the dust1. Stunning backgrounds, absolutely gorgeous lighting, and a gamut of weather effects contribute to what is rightfully a work of art. Likewise, the music and sound effects are top-notch, and the animations are lively. There’s much more dynamism in Odyssey, too: balloons rise slowly into the air with lines of flags–ready-made for grinding–between them, vines snap and give way as you traverse them, and waterfalls cascade into deep pools that you can skim or dive into. The game’s three “biomes” provide different types of terrain to navigate, each of which is gorgeously brought to life.
What keeps me playing Alto’s Odyssey is its level progression, each of which features three challenges to complete. They’re tricky, but generally not impossible–the biggest difficulty in many is simply waiting around for the right set of circumstances to present themselves. But, so far, they always feel achievable: after each inevitable crash, there’s always that drive for one more game.
As with Alto’s Adventure, there are a handful of in-game items you can buy with the coins you collect in game, some of which are one-time usage, and some which provide game-changing mechanics. The Sandboard enables you to ride on walls, for example, which is required for a bunch of challenges. The Compass lets you, once purchased, switch to different biomes, which can be handy if you have one of the frustrating challenges that requires waiting for a particular piece of terrain to come along–but at 1000 coins per switch, it’s a bit on the steep side. I haven’t yet ponied up for the wingsuit, which was–for me–the most frustrating part of the first game. I’m content to just stay on my board for now.
Perhaps the most welcome part of Alto’s Odyssey is the Zen Mode, which lets you ride endlessly: no challenges, no coins, no crashes. Just enjoy the beautiful scenery. That’s got the potential to keep bringing me back long after I’ve gotten weary of trying to beat the latest challenge. And even if I don’t, well, the ride is well worth the price of admission for the amount I’ve put into it already.
Alto’s Odyssey is $5, and available on iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV (but I’ll say that it looks best, to me, on the iPhone X’s phenomenal screen).
- Or sand. ↩
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at @email@example.com or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is out now.]
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