The original Alto's Adventure, launched three years ago, was an unmitigated success. Players loved the simple yet exciting gameplay, wonderful visuals and a soothing soundtrack, resulting in millions of copies being sold across multiple platforms.
Three years later, developer Team Alto is back with a sequel. Called Alto's Odyssey, the game has similar gameplay style to the original but with a few new twists and a brand new setting. It's now out on iOS and we decided to take a look.
Unlike the snow covered peaks of Alto's Odyssey, you slide down sand covered dunes in a desert in this game. You slide on your own but you have to tap the screen to jump over rocks. When you get sufficient air off of a jump, you can press and hold to do a flip. You can also jump on ropes to grind them. Doing either of these things increases your speed and also gives you temporary shield to break through rocks.
New additions in this game include hot air balloons, which you can now bounce on to cover longer distances, walls that you can skate on and water, which also lets you bounce off and get extra speed while sliding. Occasionally, you will also comes across whirlwinds that will push you up in the air. These are all fun new additions that add more depth to the gameplay without adding too much complexity. They did, however, get rid of the man chasing you on horseback from the previous game.
You still collect coins as you go along. These help you purchase additional items, such as helmet to protect you from crashes, magnet timers that increase the time of the collectible magnets that help you collect more coins, wingsuit to make you fly, and more. You also unlock new characters as you play along. All the items are purchased using the in-game currency that you acquire as you play and there are no in-app purchases. The $2.99 you pay for the game is all you'll ever pay.
As before, Alto's Odyssey also includes Zen mode, which was added on public demand in the original game. Zen mode lets you play without any score or deaths, so you can play without any distractions. It also has a different soundtrack for a more peaceful experience.
The overall gameplay is still superb. Despite the one button mechanics, the game never feels boring or overly simplistic. You can choose to play safe if that's more your speed or you can take risks and go for those single or even double flips in the air and bouncing off of rocks to reach higher. There's a good chance you'll fall on your face much quicker by doing that but therein lies the fun. The new gameplay elements also spice up things nicely; I found wall riding particularly challenging and it's not something I can always get right. On the occasions I do, they are quite gratifying, especially lining up multiple wall rides in a row. And for times when you just want to keep on skating without having to worry about landing your jumps correctly or collecting all the coins, there is always the Zen mode.
If I have any complaints, it's that it can be a bit tricky to spot the rocks sometimes, especially during the darker night scenes. The game has achievements that are unlocked when you do a particular thing like, for example, smash two rocks in one run or flip twice in the same run, but instead of all being available at once, these are given to you three at a time, so you could have, say, smashed rocks twice in one run multiple times in the past but it wouldn't count until the game presents you that particular achievement at some point in the future. It will also present you the next set of achievements only after you complete the first three and they never really seem to be in any particular order of difficulty and just seem random at times.
Lastly, it's still possible to die in the Zen mode, it's just that the game doesn't reset and you can just continue playing from that point onwards. I can understand that happening if you, say, fell in the canyon or on your face while flipping over but having rocks all over the place to trip you over breaks the flow of the game and doesn't feel very zen-like to me.
Visually, however, the game is faultless. Alto's Adventure was always a pretty game but Alto's Odyssey looks stunning, with a gorgeous set of color palette painting the desert landscape across the day. Like the previous game, this one, too, has a 24 hour day and night cycle with different weather. The time of the day and weather keeps changing while you are in the game, independent of whether you are playing or not or which mode you are in. This, along with the procedurally generated levels, ensures the game always looks different every time you play it.
But it's really the little details that stand out, such as the use of geometric shapes like squares for things like the trail of sand behind you, the snow fall, the flames of the campfire, the stars, or the bubbles in the water. The animations of your character are also wonderfully fleshed out, despite being so small that most people would hardly notice them. Then there are the wonderful weather effects such as rain, thunderstorm, snow and the pearcing afternoon sun. The art style for all the background objects, such as the trees, the balloons, the flowing water, the structures, and the little animals that join you on your journey is magnificent.
But it's really the lighting that brings it all together, with the purple hue of the moonlight at night, the warm evening sun, the deep red sandstorm with flashing lightning or the bright blue morning sky, it is utterly stunning at every stage. And the game has a screenshot feature built-in that makes it easy to take shots in the middle of the game without fumbling with the buttons on your phone.
Accompanying the sublime visuals is the soundtrack. The track that plays in the standard mode is fairly upbeat keeping with the more hectic pace of that mode but it's really the track in the Zen mode that is the masterpiece and one that I wouldn't mind playing even outside of the game. While you can play the game on loudspeaker, it is highly recommend you play this on headphones.
In conclusion, Alto's Odyssey is a solid sequel to an already prolific original. It improves upon the original in almost every way with a more varied gameplay, stunning new visuals and a beautiful new soundtrack. There are no puzzles to solve and no bosses to battle here. The game is designed around a relaxed gameplay style for when you want to sit back and unwind or maybe just to calm yourself down a little when you need to. If that's the sort of thing you like or if you have an appreciation for beautiful art design and soundtracks, then definitely give Alto's Odyssey a shot.