I think I can confidently say that, of all the winter sports out there, I’d be most inclined to try my hand–or rather feet–at snowboarding. Something about skis and the way your legs move and cross between one another scares the life out of me. Sure, sure…the reality of being locked then to a single board might not be a safer bet, but somewhere in my mind I’ve come to terms with this as the better, easier to grasp option. Granted, I wouldn’t be doing the same death-defying actions as seen in Alto’s Adventure, keeping myself constrained to the bunny slopes and nothing crazier than that.
Here’s a truth-pill to swallow: I downloaded Alto’s Adventure from the Windows 10 store not because it was free, but rather because its logo was stylish as heck and contained a llama inside the letter a. Guess that’s all it takes to hook me deep since I knew next to nothing else about the game at that point. Turns out, it’s an endless runner. Er, endless snowboarder. Endless llama collector? It’s one of those things, and here’s how the developer Snowman pitches it from their website: “Alto’s Adventure is an endless snowboarding odyssey, set against a beautiful and ever changing alpine landscape. The game features fluid physics-based movement, procedurally generated terrain and stunning dynamic lighting and weather effects. The core mechanic centers around an easy to learn, yet difficult to master one button trick system that allows you to chain together increasingly more elaborate trick combos to maximize the players speed and compete for high scores and distances.”
Basically, this is how your time on the mountain goes in Alto’s Adventure. You click start, and your protagonist begins to snowboard towards the right side of the screen. As you zip forward, you want to collect runaway llamas, coins, and power-ups, as well as hit ramps to do tricks and chain together many into a single combo for a hefty amount of points. The mechanic is simple, but tough to learn; press the jump button to land on roofs and ropes to automatically grind, and if you press and hold the jump button, you’ll begin to do a backflip. Knowing when and for how long to hold that jump button is key. When you land a successful trick, you are granted a temporary speed boost and blip of invincibility. There are also obstacles to avoid, such as chasms, rocks, and angry elders that will chase after you for disrupting their…I dunno, elderly sleep.
Visually, Alto’s Adventure is a beast. No, not the domesticated South American camelid kind that you are constantly trying to nab, but rather a discernible powerhouse. The graphics are minimalist, but highly evocative. I won’t say they outshine Journey, but they are hanging out in the same boat, for sure. There’s a full day/night cycle as you do each run, with fully dynamic lighting and weather effects, including thunderstorms, blizzards, fog, rainbows, shooting stars, and more. There is something hauntingly beautiful about racing through the snow as a storm cracks and flashes off in the background and surviving it all to watch the sun rise and cast its warm, orange-yellow rays on every edge of the landscape. Despite the levels being randomly generated from a bunch of similar parts, each run still feels highly unique.
My next favorite aspect besides the visuals is the goals system. It’s pretty much the same idea from Jetpack Joyride, wherein you are tasked with completing three goals while trying to handle your main goal of just getting as far as possible. Sometimes these goals are simple and naturally occurring, such as collecting a number of coins or hitting a specific tier of points, and others are more challenging. The one I’m currently stuck on is asking me to do two triple backflips in one session. Eek. There are evidently 180 goals in total to nail, and doing these level you up, which is how unlocking new characters to play as is gated. Each character controls a little differently too.
I don’t mean this as a slight, but I’ve been enjoying Alto’s Adventure in the same manner that I do my clickers, like Time Clickers and AdVenture Capitalist. It’s something that I play in short bursts, clicking every now and then, and just sort of zoning out and relaxing as things happen around ,e. The early parts of a snowboarding run are especially calming, and I love zipping through a stretch of no obstacles and only sick jumps. There are absolutely moments where you are highly involved in timing your jumps and ensuring you don’t crash, but a lot of Alto’s Adventure‘s fun comes from taking in the sights and seeing how the world changes from one moment to the next, even when that next moment is you zooming headfirst into a pile of rocks hidden at the bottom of a steep slope.