Although Snowman’s Alto’s Adventure quickly became a huge hit when it first debuted on the App Store in 2015, it wasn’t until later that year when it debuted on the Apple TV that I really got into it — the whole experience from visuals to soundscape just seemed to have been made for the bigger screen, and through the end of 2015 and beginning of 2016, it was just about the only game my partner and I played on the Apple TV as we became obsessed with completing each challenge and vying for the best distance possible.
I was disappointed when my adventures with Alto in the first game came to a natural end; sure, one could still play for longer distances, and Snowman even added a “zen mode” later on for endless relaxing play, but once all of the characters had been unlocked and all of the goals had been achieved, my incentive to play every day quickly fell away. I kept hoping that maybe Snowman would release an update or expansion that would extend the game further, but that never came. What came instead was Alto’s Odyssey.
Although I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting from Alto’s Odyssey, what’s most interesting is that at first glance, it’s not really all that different from its predecessor — you’re still boarding down a mountainside, avoiding obstacles, doing tricks, and seeing how far you can go. Clearly, Snowman has decided that they can’t argue with success, and the changes to the game have been iterative, rather than revolutionary. Which is a good thing — at its most basic level, this is just the additional Alto’s Adventures that I’ve been waiting for.
However, while the concept remains the same, and the gameplay is entirely familiar to anybody who played the original, Snowman has packed a lot of really cool little touches in Alto’s Odyssey that take the gameplay to a new level in subtle but very interesting ways — it expands Alto’s world rather than reinventing it, while creating an even more immersive and engaging environment.
Alto’s Odyssey still eases you into the game play, so for the first few levels you’ll mostly only notice the visual differences — you’re boarding down a desert hill rather than a snowy mountain, and grinds now hang between suspended balloons, for example. As you play onward, however, you’ll likely first start to notice a few subtle differences in game play. For instance, the first thing that I noticed was how the balloons now float up and down in the air, with the suspended grinds moving up and down with them. Further, jumping high enough that I landed on top of a balloon revealed one of the first new tricks in Alto’s Odyssey — the ability to bounce off the top of a baloon.
A number of other new changes also gradually appear in the first few levels: there are now tornadoes that can be used to catapult you to new heights, the “Hover Feather” has been replaced with a “Lotus Flower” that lets you avoid crashes without slowing you down. Llamas are also entirely gone; you’re no longer trying to catch or herd any kind of animals, but rather the premise of Alto’s Odyssey is that you’re simply exploring this new world.
A few levels in, you’ll be introduced to the first major new game mechanic: The Sandboard. Equip yourself with one of these (you’ll need to buy it in the shop, but should easily have enough gold coins by this point), and you’ll suddenly be able to “wall ride” at key points across the canyons. In some cases wall riding can just be used to add combos to your stunts and gain extra height, while in other situations, you’ll need to perfect your wall riding skills to get across chasms.
Speaking of which, chasm jumping has gotten more sophisticated as well. It’s much more common now to fail to clear chasms if you haven’t gained enough speed, meaning you’ll really need to get those tricks going as early on in the game as possible. Further, there are also spots where you’re less likely to see a chasm coming, and even situations where you can almost drop over one without knowing. I found the added variations to be both interesting and challenging.
Then there’s the “biomes” — unlike Alto’s Adventure, where you basically just snowboarded down a hill with somewhat random but repeating scenery, Alto’s Odyssey actually takes you through three different environments: dunes, canyons, and temples, each with their own unique terrain and challenges. For instance, the canyons are where you’ll be introduced to sandboarding walls, while in the temples, you’ll be able to grind along multi-level temple ruins and vines that actually snap as you get to the end of each one. The biomes are introduced in stages as you progress through the first few levels, but once you’ve unlocked all three, you’ll simply alternate between them as you move along farther. A “compass” can also be purchased from the in-game shop that will allow you to choose a biome to start in on the fly, which can be particularly useful if you’re trying to complete a goal that requires something only available in a specific biome, such as grinding on a temple ruin.
In the land of Alto’s Odyssey there are also no more elders for you to pester, but instead you’ll eventually discover lemurs, which serve the same purpose, but with more challenges. For instance, lemurs can now follow you up onto a grind, and since you don’t actually gain speed until you land your series of tricks, you can more easily get caught by the lemur while you’re still on the grind. While lemurs are trickier that way, however, the rules otherwise remain the same: hop a chasm and you’ll have escaped the lemur and gained points for doing so.
Of course, the game mechanics are only part of the charm of Alto’s Odyssey. Like Alto’s Adventure, there’s just a certain “je ne sais quoi” about the entire game environment — from the serene rolling hills and background scenery to the changing lighting and weather conditions and chill soundtrack, the experience of playing Alto’s Odyssey has as much — if not more — of the same magical feel that made its predecessor so great.