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Reviews

Alto's Adventure

Andy Robertson

Alto's Adventure

Snowman Platform: iOS, 9+

Technically Alto's Adventure is just another endless runner video-game. These offer an ever faster and harder challenge to stay alive while your character rushes across the screen. Interactions are limited to just a single sap to jump. It's all about simple instinctive game-play. That is what's happening on the screen, technically. Playing the game though is like flying through a crystalline mountain top as the sun sets and villagers huddle round camp fires. It's a rare experience where I didn't mind dying because this means I can go back to the top of the mountain and have another go. The story here is that you are a Llama herder whose flock escapes down the snowy mounting. Of course, you grab your snow board and set off in pursuit. Along the way you have to jump boulders, campfires and ravines, fly off ramps, grind along roofs, bunting and ice patches. All pretty everyday stuff. These things all occur at unpredictable moments while you fly down the mountainside. Each run is always slightly different although as you improve you unlock more challenges and characters who can perform better tricks. But again the detail of the game mechanics is to miss how it feels to play. The essence of Alto's Adventure is that these things happen in a living breathing world. The sun rises slowly over the mountains, loops across the sky and steadily sets. As night falls the crickets come out and the snow sounds louder. 42 JULY 2015 REVIEWS VIDEOGAMES At times clouds gather and bring darkened rainfall and lightening. On other occasions the blazing sun bleaches the mountain with piercing rays. Alto's Adventure creates this aesthetic and never strays from it. Even menu and score screens inhale this alpine reality. The sound ebbs and flows with all this. As you play, notes and sound effect join the orchestral backing to create an aural canvass. If this was a pre-rendered video it could be considered window dressing. In the game though each element plays off each other. In concert they draw you into the game and creates an unexpected tranquility. As you progress your every move is tracked. From distance travelled to Llamas saved, birds spooked and lightning strikes seen. Then, perhaps the most fascinating part of the game, number of elders woken. Far from being wise sages these older herders find your snowboard-herding style too much to stomach and once roused chase you down the mountain. This brings a moment of tension as tricks must be pulled off quickly to accelerate your descent and escape the telling off. Alto's Adventure adds up to a pleasant distraction. Distraction enough for my mind to leave plans, worries and to do lists at the top of the slope. Alto's Adventure is perhaps badly named. Far from offering a voyage and return, quest, rebirth or tragedy the narrative for me was one of stopping and enjoying time with myself hurtling down the serene mountain. Perhaps Alto's Escape would be better. Like many video-games, give Alto's Adventure some time and it will give back not only an entertaining challenge but grant space to switch off from life's ever-present busyness. Wonderfully frivolous and entrancing.