Uncover the Mysteries of the Desert
An award-winning little gem that launched on multiple platforms in 2018, Alto’s Odyssey puts players on a sandboard and sets them loose to glide, jump and grind their way through the desert. Created by Team Alto in collaboration with mobile developer Noodlecake Studios, this standalone follow-up to Alto’s Adventure is an endless runner that can be enjoyed without having played its predecessor.
Alto’s Odyssey has no story, and there is no need for one. The goal? To coast serenely through a landscape of illimitable hills and chasms, hoodoos and rope bridges, while performing tricks on your sandboard and avoiding obstacles. Throughout the game, you’ll visit a variety of biomes, riding through sand dunes, sunset-filled canyons and ancient temples. Dynamic lighting and weather effects mean you’ll encounter wind vortexes, sandstorms, rainstorms and even an occasional shooting star.
The screen is divided into a background, middle ground where the action occurs, and foreground. The background is easily discernible, rolling by at a different speed from the others. However, I frequently had difficulty with the minimal variance in the depth of field between fore and midground. I often mistakenly reacted to objects in the foreground or failed to jump over obstacles in my path because I misjudged their locations. Many of my restarts were due to this inability to correctly gauge distances.
Get a Little Meditation In
The imagery in Alto’s Odyssey is simplistic, calling to mind a diorama composed of sheets of construction paper. The colors have been artfully selected, creating a harmonious palette of analogous or complementary shades. While the gameplay is for the most part basic, consisting solely of timing your finger taps on the screen, the serene visuals through which you travel greatly add to the total experience. It transforms a seemingly uncomplicated game into a meditative adventure.
This peaceful effect is fully intentional. Alto’s Odyssey even features Zen Mode, a less demanding version of the game that removes the coins, scores and power-ups. You can continue as many times as necessary, faceplanting or falling into chasms with no repercussions. With only the game’s tranquil soundtrack to accompany you and the inexplicably peaceful sound of your board grinding on the sand, this mode could almost lull you to sleep. In a good way.
Crash, Splat, Sploosh
One of the marketing blurbs for Alto’s Odyssey states that the game is “easy to learn, difficult to master.” Truer words were never spoken. I quickly realized that I’m not particularly good at tapping on my phone screen with precise timing. Crash after splat after sploosh, I spent the majority of my time hitting the “Play again” button. Granted, I improved slightly the more I played, but I would never have progressed far in the game if it weren’t for the continuation options.
When you crash in Alto’s Odyssey, you get a limited number of chances to restart. Once those run out, you can either purchase another try for 1500 coins, collected during play, or by watching an advertisement. Needless to say, I watched an uncountable number of ads. I wanted to save my coins to buy upgrades as I very slowly but surely unlocked them.
Those who prove more skilled at learning the timing for performing tricks in Alto’s Odyssey will find a challenging game with a variety of moves to learn. Grind on bridge railings, bounce off of hot air balloons, ride along rock walls, perform flips and glide through the air. To advance through the game’s levels, you’ll have to complete tasks of varying difficulty. For example, backflip from a tornado, jump across two chasms or land a 5000-point combo. Alto’s Odyssey features over 180 goals, as well as a scorecard to track your performance.
Workshop Unlockables and Upgrades
From the main menu, you can access the Workshop. Real cash will purchase additional coins or remove pop-up ads that appear later in the game. The Workshop is also where you’ll grab upgrades for the Coin Magnet, which pulls coins to you, and the Lotus Flower, which allows you to smash through rocks rather than crash into them. These cost 250 coins each, a relatively minor amount, so you’ll want to acquire these as soon as possible.
As you progress through the game, further upgrades will unlock for purchase from the Workshop. The first of these is the Sandboard. This gives your character a board with special bindings that let you wallride to perform tricks and more easily jump across canyons. Other unlockables include the Wingsuit, Mysterious Radio and Compass. These add depth to the gameplay and supply a bigger arsenal of tricks to perform while gliding through the zen-like scenery.
You also don’t have to play through the entire game as Alto and, to experience all the game has to offer, you probably shouldn’t. The six unlockable characters have unique attributes and abilities. For example, Maya flips faster than the other boarders but doesn’t easily build up speed. Izel, on the other hand, moves very quickly and makes great use of gadgets that enable her to stay airborne for extended periods of time. The characters can be purchased with real money or unlocked with a little patience as you advance through the game.
Team Alto’s creation offers two sides of a coin. A serene journey through a mellow landscape provides some relaxation. The one-touch trick system, easy to learn and tough to master, supplies the challenge some players may be craving. A free-to-play title, Alto’s Odyssey should make its way onto your to-do list, if it hasn’t already.
Is It Hardcore?
Alto’s Odyssey provides a chill experience for players in the mood for a bit of relaxation, while offering a challenge for those searching for some mental stimulation. If you missed the game when it launched in 2018, now’s as good a time as any to give it a go.