Alto's Odyssey, the much-anticipated follow-up to Alto's Adventure, picks up where the popular snowboarding endless runner left off, sending the llama herder and his companions on new adventures in the desert.
Compelling and strange: In the backflip sequel, Alto leaves his mountain home and travels to faraway deserts and oases, scattered with mysterious ruins. For those who played Alto's Adventure, the follow-up will feel familiar and new: Alto's Odyssey is just as beautiful and polished as the first. But to keep the game fresh, Alto sandboards over a more diverse terrain and faces more varied and interesting challenges in his second game. As you advance through the 60 levels, you unlock Alto's companions -- each with his or her own story and strengths and weaknesses -- and gain access to new items that help you uncover a bit of the game's backstory.
Lots of help at the start: After a short tutorial, you are ready to start landing backflips and exploring Alto's new environment. While almost every trick is easy to grasp in this one-handed game, they aren't necessarily easy to pull off, so the game offers encouragement when you fail. And when you do reach major milestones, the game provides brief guidance on how to advance through the next portion.
Pay once and you're done: Plunk down the $4.99 to purchase the game, and then put your wallet away because everything you buy is with coins you collect as you sandboard. In Izel's workshop, you can spend your coins on upgrades, a wingsuit, a mysterious radio, a special sandboard, and a curiously helpful compass.
Meditative: The game is beautiful and absorbing, as you slide through stunning sunrises, star-filled nights, and sandstorms. If gameplay gets too stressful, however, swipe left from the home screen to get to Zen Mode, where you can play without distractions to a calming orchestral soundtrack.
Boarding at night can be challenging: Telling the difference between rocks and plants during a night run or a sandstorm can be challenging. Youcan just jump over everything or adjust the brightness on your phone to better spot rocks.
Alto's Odyssey is a satisfying and rewarding side-scroller for iPhone that is a near-perfect blend of beautiful artwork, arresting soundtrack, and engaging gameplay. The pace of the game is challenging but never frantic. But if you're starting to feel worked up, the Zen Mode lets you play a low-stress version of the game with a soothing soundtrack and no cares about achievements.