Desert at sunset, ancient, exotic and mysterious. Nothing disturbs its absolute peace as the huge red sun descends in slow-motion behind the rugged mountains seen in the misty distance. Suddenly, someone rushes down the dunes lighting fast, bounces off the surface of a huge rock, then makes a daring backflip, with something resembling a long red scarf fluttering proudly at its wake. A mirage? No, that’s just Alto, a hero of the Alto’s Adventure, riding the pristine desert sands in search of another thrilling adventure.
If you’ve already played Alto’s Adventure, a critically acclaimed title by Snowman that almost miraculously managed to instill new life in a stale endless runner formula, then you must be quite familiar with this and similar scenes, with the obvious fact that now the setting is completely changed. And not only that, but it’s intentionally located in a place that’s a totally opposite of snow-capped landscapes we knew and loved from the previous game. It is apparent that llama-herding Alto and his friends couldn’t resist the lure of the desert. As developers from Team Alto explained, this drastic change of scenery is a result of their wish to make their characters leave their comfort zone, broaden their horizon and outgrow their old selves. However, there’s more to it than meets the eye. Just as in the previous game, this was also an extremely personal project for all members of the team. For instance, one of them moved from Vancouver to Toronto, and that profound feeling of displacement, as well as the reimagining of concepts of family and home, were neatly incorporated in Alto’s Odyssey. The outcome is a title that, in a way, fatefully follows the concept of the original, but at the same time expands it in a completely new direction.
At its core, the game is pretty much the same as Alto’s Adventure: you’ll play as one of the adventurous snowboarders who now try to conquer the arid sand-swept desert landscapes. There are still goals (180 of them to be precise) to keep you additionally entertained and to make the whole experience more challenging. The game mechanics remained the same, with the realistic feeling of speed and movement, dynamic weather, stunning randomly generated sceneries and beautiful interchanging day-night cycles that were the hallmark of the first Alto game. You’ll still constantly chain combos, and if you’re successful your scarf will grow as an indication that you’re doing things the right way – when you start slacking, the scarf will gradually reduce in size. However, Alto’s Odyssey also offers much that is new in comparison to the original game.
First of all, there is a new playable character which you can take on a ride down the hot desert sands. In addition to Alto, Maya, Paz, Izel and Felipe the lama, we now have Sumara, a native of the desert and initiate in its mysteries. If you’ve played Alto before you know that each of these characters has its pros and cons when it comes to snowboarding (or, in this case, sandboarding). Alto, the first character you’ll get to play, is a good all-around sandboarder, Maya flips faster than other characters, but takes more time to build momentum, burly Paz is initially slower than the others and has a rather clumsy backflip, but when he finally gets going, he becomes unstoppable, etc. However, the newcomer Sumara (which unlocks at level 51) is particularly interesting because she’s specially equipped for the desert conditions – she flips quickly and even seems to possess the power to appease the annoying lemurs since they won’t bother her during the ride.
And, while we’re on the topic of pesky lemurs, the little troublemakers are basically here to substitute those grumpy elders from the first Alto game, so do try to backflip your way out of trouble when you run into some of them, lest they’ll interrupt your perfect combo. There are many new location-specific surfaces suitable for different tricks, such as desert rocks which you can use for wall rides. They won’t only be useful for showing off your spectacular sandboarding skills, but also to traverse chasms and other obstacles.
Of course, although your sandboarding adventure won’t be without is excitements, a feeling that prevails throughout the game is a supreme sense of serenity and freedom. Much more than just another endless runner, wonderful Alto’s Odyssey will help you loosen up, relax and find your inner Zen.