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Alto’s Odyssey: gorgeous desert adventure

Ride through epic landscapes on your trusty sandboard in the sequel to Alto’s Adventure, one of the most popular iOS games of 2015.

If you’re new to the series, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a simple one-tap auto-runner – and if you’ve played Alto’s Adventure, you might be initially disappointed to find Odyssey plays a lot like its predecessor. Tap to jump, hold to backflip, try not to crash, yadda yadda. At first glance, the only real difference is that the giant snow-capped mountains have been swapped for a gorgeous desert setting complete with rolling sandy dunes, craggy cliffs, and ancient ruins.

Who wouldn’t want to backfip over a crumbling ruin on a sandboard?

Dig a little deeper, though, and this is a super satisfying and immaculately polished game that improves on its predecessor without compromising the basics which made Alto’s Adventure such a hit.

Odyssey starts out pretty simply – Alto will glide along automatically, but left to his own devices he’ll quickly crash into a pile of rocks or fall down a ravine. Your job is not only to avoid these obstacles but to earn points by doing tricks: bounce on a hot air balloon, grind over a hanging vine, backflip a gorge. The choice is yours.

Textured cliffsides are perfect to “wall ride” for an extra boost

This formula soon expands, however, with the game drip-feeding new elements as your progress. Pass a few challenges, collect a few coins, and eventually new abilities and moves will be revealed that really open up the game for the better.

Case in point: wall-riding is an awesome new mechanic, one that allows much more control over the environment and makes it a lot more feasible to string together sequences of tricks for extra points. Likewise the wingsuit, which enables the power of flight for brief periods after a sequence of tricks.

Coins are used to unlock new items

There’s an element of coin-collecting here to unlock gear, though thankfully there are no in-app purchases in sight. That said, some really game-changing unlockables like the wingsuit take a long time to earn and could be easily missed by players more intent on buying extra lives.

Still, once unlocked all these elements combine with a set of ever-changing challenges and new character unlocks to create an immersive, addictive game that should appeal to almost anyone.

Alto automatically grinds along wires and vines if you jump high enough

At times the focus on high speeds and cool moves are almost reminiscent of an old-school Sonic the Hedgehog game, but there’s also a risk-free “Zen mode” for players wanting to tone down the difficulty and just enjoy the ride.

What elevates Odyssey beyond its peers is its immaculate presentation. The various “biomes” you’ll encounter each throw up new and amazing landscapes, with the visuals constantly impressing amidst frequent weather changes and a speedy day-night cycle. The attention to detail is superb and each frame of artwork is graphically stunning. Not to mention the pulsating, atmospheric soundtrack that helps draw you in.

The look is constantly changing, but always gorgeous

If you’ve got one, you’ll want to play this game on an iPad Pro or Apple TV to get the most out of these visuals. (It still looks great on a tiny iPhone, though!)

Though at times it veers a little too closely to the original formula, it’s hard to find many genuine faults with this beautiful, addictive, zen-like game.