Alto's Adventure is not a new gaming concept or the best in its genre, but the graphics as you speed down the mountain are in a league of their own.
Alto's Adventure ($1.99, £1.49, AU$2.49) is an "endless runner" where you snowboard down a mountain as you hit big jumps, avoid obstacles and collect coins while going for distance.
This snowy endless runner concept is one that's been done before very well with Ski Safari, my favorite game from 2012. But while the gameplay might not stack up with that mature classic, what sets Alto's Adventure apart is a graphical style that's visually stunning and immersive as you race down the mountain.
At the root of every endless runner is the need to survive as long as possible and Alto's Adventure is no different. But it's what happens along the way that is so satisfying.
You start as Alto, a young shepherd boy trying to return escaped llamas as you snowboard down the mountain. But you'll also grind down roofs, avoid rocks, perform backflips, collect coins and jump over dangerous chasms on your journey. Any slip up means you'll go back to the beginning, but like most games you'll learn what works as you play and find yourself going farther and farther with each run.
At various points along your journey you'll also come across mountain elders. These veterans of the mountains will try to chase you down on their horses and the only way to shake them is to jump over a chasm they can't cross.
You'll also get a little help along the way with items you find on the mountain. A hover feather lets you glide over rocks for a short time, while the magnet will attract all coins around you so you can get more cash.
The coins can be used in the shop between levels to buy a few items, but there's not much there. Currently you can add to the magnet timer so you'll attract more cash, or add to the hover timer to stay safe for longer. But the big-ticket item is the wingsuit, which lets you fly short distances to help you avoid obstacles and get away from pursuing mountain elders.
At the beginning of each run, you'll be shown the current three achievements you can complete to level up. These can be anything from performing a backflip to jumping off a ramp before a grind. With the mostly random levels, it could take a few runs to pick up certain achievements simply because you might have trouble finding a big enough jump to perform a double backflip, for example.
As you complete these sets of three achievements, you'll level up, which gradually unlocks new snowboarders. Each has his or her own unique abilities. Maya, your first unlock, is able to do backflips more quickly than Alto, which will make the achievement for performing a double-backflip a lot easier.
The first thing you'll notice as you leave your mountain village are the smooth-as-silk visuals as you begin your adventure. The snow dovetails up from your board as you speed down the mountain, and you'll encounter forests, other villages and ancient ruins that are all beautifully detailed.
What's really neat as you play is how the environment changes over time. You start in the daylight, but as you race down the mountain the sun will slowly go down into a sunset and finally into a moonlit night. Once night comes you'll have to be extra careful because certain obstacles appear only as silhouettes against the backdrop.
There are also weather changes that effect your run. Sometimes it will rain or snow to make it harder to navigate your path. This was one of the only problems I have with Alto's Adventure: When you combine the dark night with a swirling storm, it's almost impossible to keep your run going without hitting something.
Still, all of the lighting effects and scenery are what make this game special, so even when the inevitable crash comes you'll be amazed at all you saw to get there.
It is impossible not to compare Alto's Adventure with 2012 hit Ski Safari. Even when it was released it had a bit more depth than Alto's Adventure. The ability to ride penguins, yeti's, birds, and snowmobiles all added new wrinkles to the escape down the mountain dynamic.
Since 2012 there have been numerous updates with new vehicles, seasonal items, and several new maps to explore. It's a fantastic game, but I wouldn't call it better than Alto's Adventure; just different.
Alto's Adventure doesn't have as many items to buy, nor as many vehicles to keep you alive. But even with the more straightforward approach, the game managed to delight and surprise me as I went down the mountain, mostly because of the scenery and graphics, but also with solid gameplay.
Alto's Adventure is not a new gaming concept, but a reimagining of other games we've seen before. The closest comparison from the endless runner genre is Ski Safari, but Alto's Adventure's strength is in the way it presents the content. In other words, when you're gliding through a dark, moonlit forest at night, the graphical style is undeniably the star of this game.
It's true that those who want a richer experience with more items, gadgets and power-ups should probably stick with the tried and true Ski Safari. But for a unique gaming experience that will wow you with stunning visuals, Alto's Adventure is very easy to recommend.