Game Review: Alto's Adventure
Okay, how about a slightly deeper dive?
Alto’s Adventure is from Snowmen, the creators of the reminders app Checkmark, and the brand new Shifts app which I love. When they announced that they were making a game, I was taken aback, but I’m glad I tried it out. You don’t see many productivity app developers dive into game development, but these boys and girls took on the challenge.
At its core, Alto’s Adventure is a rather traditional mobile game in the style pioneered by games like Tiny Wings, Ski Safari, and Jetpack Joyride. You are Alto, and your llamas have escaped! It’s your job to catch those rebellious animals and bring them back to your…uh…llama farm. Okay, the plot is a little thin, so I’m making some of this up as I go.
As you ski down the hill after your llamas, there are coins that you can collect which let you buy upgrades for your character. You also want to do tricks on the way down (llama-wrangling should be fun, right?), which consist of flips and grinds. Later in the game you can unlock a new trick, but I’ll leave that as a surprise. The goal is to get as far down the hill as possible, and tricks are really your ticket to a high score and picking up good speed. You want to string tricks together to make big combos, and multiply your score. A backflip by itself is not worth much, but if you can string a flip into a grind, into a jump over a gap, you’ll really be cooking.
The game tries to keep each run somewhat unique by giving you 3 optional objectives each time down the mountain. These range from “do a double backflip” to “travel 10,000 meters total” to “bounce off a rock”. Again, these goals are nothing new for the genre, but they are varied enough that they keep the game interesting.
One final note on the gameplay: this game is hard. Some of my runs last just 30 seconds, while a really good run goes for maybe 2 minutes. There are no do-overs here. Once you fall, it’s over. Compared to its obvious peer, Ski Safari, the challenge is much greater. We’re not talking Flappy Bird level of frustration, but you will die in this game a lot. Be prepared.
In addition to Alto, there are 5 characters you can unlock, and each one brings with it some unique characteristic. Alto is like Mario in Mario Kart; he’s average at everything. You also have one character who is good at flipping, but it slower than the rest of the gang. Another character is bigger, but is built for speed. Once again, I won’t spoil the surprise talents of the later riders you unlock, but know that they’re pretty cool and have their own unique flavor.
You’ll probably settle on one or two characters that are your favorites, but your challenges will sometimes require you switch it up.
Look and Feel
Note: I tested this game on an iPhone 6 and iPad Air 2. Performance was solid on both, with minimal load times and a smooth frame rate.
Oh man, does this game look good! The art style is really something else. I don’t really know how to describe it, but I know I like it. The snowy terrain is carried, and a pure delight to navigate. I found once you get to higher speeds, some obstructions like rocks are a little hard to see in your path. They don’t have quite as much contrast as I needed at some points to avoid them in time. Obviously that’s a part of the challenge, but I think a little more clarity wouldn’t hurt.
There is a day and night cycle in the game, so you’ll be hitting the slopes at all hours of the day. Skiing at night is extra challenging, as everything is just a little harder to see. I actually would sometimes wait at the start of the mountain for night to come around so I would do the slower part of my run at night and then have the sun come up when I got to the harder, faster sections later on.
Finally, the music in this game is beautiful. There’s only one song in the game, so it’s good that it’s a great song. I think this is how it is in every game in this genre, but a little more variety would be nice.
As I said in the open, you really should buy Alto’s Adventure if you enjoy this type of game. It’s not a game trying to get you to buy a million little in-app purchases, or a game that’s a shameless rip off of another popular game. This is a classy, fun, addicting game that will keep you coming back for “just one more run” over and over again.