Now and then I stumble across a game that I’ve never heard of. I gratefully accept the key and wait patiently while it installs. As the title loads in I have no expectations, no idea what to expect, I’m going into it completely blind. The Alto Collection was one such game. You may think, “What happens if it’s terrible, you’ll have to review something that you don’t like!” This is a risk I’m willing to take, as occasionally I stumble across a hidden gem, and this was one of those moments. It’s a procedurally generated snowboard adventure game that comprises 2 different scenarios; one on snow, and the other sand. Alto’s Adventure and Alto’s Odyssey. Developed and published by Snowman Inc. they are both separate entities, but follow exactly the same gameplay, and simple game premise.
You control a range of characters, each has their own positives, and negatives, and all except one must be unlocked by proceeding through the levels. Each of these levels comprises 3 goals, these vary greatly, and usually involve a hearty mix of skill and luck. You may be asked to grind and backflip across certain obstacles, or to collect a set amount of coins. As you move higher up the ranks the challenges become progressively harder. You spend most of your time ruing your luck, and swearing as you fail in your task repeatedly.
So, what does a run on either of these games look like? Each begins at the top of a mountain or dune. You move from left to right, at a set speed, this increases as you successfully land tricks such as; backflips, grinds, and wall rides. As your pace increases, you note that your scarf gets longer, this helps by quickly showing you if you are slowing down, as it shrinks. At this point it’s best to start leaping around and landing combos. “Why is it so important to go fast?” You might ask. Ravines and chasm’s, that’s why. If you are not carrying enough speed, you will fall head first into the dark pit, ending your run, and making you scream with frustration.
As you proceed down the mountain, you collect coins, and get allocated points. The coins are used in the workshop, they help you improve your equipment, and power-ups that you find en route. You can also purchase new items, and objects that will allow you to carry on if you fall to your death at any point. The coins don’t come easily, so I had to keep saving up for what felt like forever, just to get the most minor of improvements. The points you are awarded serve as a pat on the back. A high score that allows you to brag amongst friends. Everything that you do in the stage accumulates points, from the distance travelled, to tricks landed, and obstacles jumped. I loved this part of it, it really drove my competitive side, and made me want to play just one more time. It’s a game that gets under your skin, and the first time I played it, I lost 4 hours without batting an eyelid.
The power-ups differ in both titles. Magnets will attract surrounding coins, feathers will allow you to hover above obstacles, and flowers will speed you up, and enable you to smash through rocks. These can be the difference between survival and failure, and I’d suggest collecting them at all costs. I’ve mentioned the pits of doom, but what other obstacles await you? Rocks and lots of them. They appear out of nowhere and thwart you at every opportunity. You must time your jump perfectly to proceed. In Alto’s Adventure you encounter Elders who are sleeping in a tent. As you board passed them, they awaken. This makes them furious. You have a limited amount of time to evade them, so land those tricks as speed is of the essence. In Alto’s Odyssey I could not find anything similar, but I may not have boarded far enough to find perhaps an angry camel, or nomad who was displeased with my behaviour.
What is brilliant, and infuriating about this title is the Roguelike elements that ensure that death causes you to lose all progress. The only things you get to keep are any coins that you have collected, and the upgraded equipment. Other than that, your progress bar is reset, and you must start all over again.
To match in with the simple game premise, the developers have taken a simplistic, but a beautiful approach to their art work. Muted colours, a delightful day-night cycle that uses shade, and shadows brilliantly. Your character and animals are silhouetted at night time, and progress can be hard going as everything becomes harder to see. The world has a delightful variety in its landscapes, and each biome that you pass through looks unique. It’s a very retro 2D approach, but it has a modern twist and aesthetic. No matter how many times I reset the action, I never got bored with what I was looking at.
To match the gorgeous visuals, the audio plays a big part in creating a chilled out and immersive atmosphere. The music used is a soft piano piece that makes you feel relaxed. It plays out quietly in the background, acting in a support role, helping to set the tone and mood. The sound effects make this brilliant. The gentle sound of the board riding over the crisp snow, the crunch as you land a clean jump, and the retro coin collecting noise. They all worked together extremely well. I snowboard myself, and every part of this transported me back to the mountains, and flying down the piste. I can’t help but congratulate Snowman Inc. for doing such a great job of making this part so realistic.
This is a game that’s as much about relaxation, and enjoying the moment, as it is about being alert and precise with your choices. Now this may sound like a contradiction, but if you give this a go, you will instantly know what I mean. There is a lot at stake when you fail a run, so you want the controls to be responsive, and easy to use. Luckily, they are. The button mapping is straightforward, and with few options available, it’s easy to get started and to master. This for me is also what made it so addictive. It was so easy to play, that the next run you were certain to do better, it’s just a shame that I always made mistakes, and I always failed. It’s ok though, as I could always sneak in one extra go before bed.
How much replay value can a procedurally generated snowboarding game have? In short, lots! I could keep playing this repeatedly, trying to beat my high score, my furthest distances, or achieving all the goals. There is so much to make you want to play again. It has a rather challenging and comprehensive achievement list that will put even hardened gamers to the test. As both titles are stand-alone, you must gain your Gamerscore from each one. This leads to a lot of repetitive challenges, but as you feed your addiction, you will slowly chip away at some more difficult ones without realising it. Can I place a number on how long you’ll play this? Absolutely not. I’ve committed around 10 hours game time, and I’m miles off obtaining the 100% status. This will be a long game to complete.
The Alto Collection came out of nowhere and smacked me right between the eyes. It really is a hidden gem, and unfortunately I believe it will be passed up by a lot of gamers. I loathe to say that one of its plus points is its casual gaming style, as once you play it your life will be placed on hold, as that’s how addictive it is! Every element of this is simple, all except surviving. A good run turns into a great run, and then you get cocky. You leap off grinds, rotating through the air like a Catherine Wheel. You are out of control, and out of your depth, another run ends, and you rue your luck. Next time will be better, and who cares that work is in 2 hours, you have a mountain to conquer.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The Alto Collection Review
Gameplay - 8/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Replay Value - 8/10
User Review( votes)
A procedurally generated snowboarding experience that will make you want to play repeatedly.
- Brilliantly simple concept.
- Delightful graphics.
- Wonderful audio.
- Easy controls.
- Lots of replay value.
- A tough achievement list.