Here in Indonesia, we don't have any snow situation around. Sure it would be great to have one. We could build snowman, throwing some snowball into someone else's face, and the most fun out of it for me, is that I can go to a mountain and go snowboarding there. Being outside, enjoy the breezy wind of the mountain, and the freedom feeling as we sliding through the downhill of the mountain. It do feel relaxing and I think downhill snowboarding can relieve some stress from our head (well, I've never been doing this kind of stuff, but I do think it's true).
With all the great experiences of snowboarding in mind, Snowman, Inc. created a game that expresses their passion as snowboarders. Snowman, Inc. itselves is a small Canadian software studio based in Toronto, Canada, focused on building apps that enhance people’s lives through productivity and entertainment. If you've used productivity apps, you might've known these guys from apps like Checkmark and Shifts. Both of these apps feature great workflows when doing daily life. Also both of these apps are designed with a very detail UX in mind.
This detail oriented minds then continue evolving their market to share their passion of snowboarding to the whole world. As it turns out, both snowboarders founder feel that most snowboarding games in the App Store are cartoony, have bad controls, or are trying too much to be like console games. That's why since late 2012, both Ryan and Jordan, started to create 2D iOS game based around an "infinite runner" mechanic. But as I've stated, Snowman won't be satisfied with just a typical game. Like most of their productivity apps before, Snowman wants something distinctive, but also beautiful in the UI. That's why for this project, they contacted U.K-based artist and developer Harry Nesbitt to work together. The result? An amazing downhill snowboard game with endless runner odyssey and it's called Alto's Adventure.
As we all might have known (if you don't, you will be), endless runner is a crowded genre with lots of game based on it. It's like when RPG is the most favorite genre at their time, now it's endless runner era. Not only indie developer choose this genre, even big player like EA, Marvel, SEGA, etc. If you don't know, even the controversial Flappy Bird can also be considered as an endless runner game! However, even in the midst of this crowded genre and between all these big developers, Alto's Adventure still stood up between all of them with their own unique distinctive look and feel. It even scored 92 out of 100 in Metacritic.
So why does Alto's Adventure still able to stand out despite the genre that they chose? If you're looking at the screenshot or at the gameplay trailer below, you won't notice why Alto's Adventure is said to be one of the best game this year. Alto's Adventure is an endless downhill snowboarding game where you play as Alto and his six friends (there is also Llama as Alto's friends). Based on the developer, the gameplay is taking inspiration from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, but based on gamers experience, the gameplay look somewhat similar to Ski Safari. But believe me, the gameplay is not the core product of this game.
In Alto's Adventure, you will be snowboarding down the hill. When you make your way down the hill, there're also rocks and camp fire to jump over, ramps to launch off to perform back flips, and ribboned rails to grind on. Yes, you will do lots of back flips in Alto's Adventure. The game itself is heavily physics-based, so you might find that you can't just jump anywhere you want, you need to build speed and momentum before you launch Alto and his friends into the air doing some back flips. During the sliding, you might tripped yourself by some rocks, dropped yourself because you fail to gain momentum, or perhaps fall down because of the fail tricks. But you'll always start over again at the top of never-ending downhill chasing some 4 llamas that always escaped your sight.
The game are based on some criterias; coins for purchasing power-ups, points to compete with your friends high-score, and goals that you will be aiming in order to level-up. As a matter of fact, level-up is your actual main goal. Every 10 levels, you will unlock a new character, one of Alto's friend, with different characteristics, and of course different effects. In each level, you will try to meet 3 criterias in order to level-up. Obviously, there will be one criteria that usually hold you from levelling up, so hard you just want to banging your head in your pillow.
The Gameplay is not the Core Product of Alto's Adventure
For me personally, the core product of Alto's Adventure is the detail put inside the gameplay. That's the reason why if you only look at the screenshot and the trailer, most likely you won't be able to grasp the true beauty of this game. You have to get your hands in the game, put your headphone/earphone/whatever phone you have, close to your ear, put your phone close to your eye. Then you know, the more you play, the more beauty of Alto's Adventure you can experience.
I'm not exaggerating here. Let's talk about the controls first. Based on his interviews with wired.com, Ryan Cash stated, "We thought that Tiny Wings had done something really special, and we learned from its simplicity that by limiting the complexity of a game’s controls, you can actually enhance the overall experience". This is why just like many of Snowman's apps that prioritise user experience, the game's controls keep things as simple as possible. You need to just use one finger to play the game, tap the screen to jump, tap and hold to back flip, and other detail things are automatically done by the game. To even simplify it, Alto's Adventure even put a tutorial to teach you how to snowboard.
The controls however, is only the supporting cast. The next awesome things in Alto's Adventure is the graphics. For this, most people should've agreed with me. Just by watching the gameplay trailer, people should've known the graphics quality of the game. Some critical people might think that "well, it's just the graphics that look pretty" or "it's somewhat similar to Monument Valley". Nope, the game is way more than only beautiful graphics. It has this so-called dynamic lighting and weather effects features that make your downhill snowboarding journey feels more realistic.
These two features then combined with procedurally generated terrain as you play, creating an amazing experience. For instance, I would be able to see my snowboarder as well as the surroundings (forest, village, rocks) that I'm passing through during the day, but after a while, the sun starting to sets and I won't be able to clearly see my surroundings anymore. Then, as the time goes, the night gets even darker, and now I can see shooting stars, lanterns, even fireflies glittering in the dark forest. There're also conditions when the rain is pouring and lightning that strikes hard. Or perhaps, when it's snowing, the surrounding won't be as clear when the sun shines bright. All these details not just for beautify purpose, but to leverage the overall experience and feeling of the players.
“We wanted to try and create a living, breathing environment for Alto to inhabit. That the game and its characters could be just a small part of a much larger world, with its own history and culture.” Harry Nesbitt
For now let's moving on and talk about the audio. The soundtrack, the background music of Alto's Adventure, the relaxing piano sound, gives premium feeling while playing the game. It doesn't feel too strong that it overwhelms the game, yet somehow it feels that the beat of the soundtrack was created to match the speed of the snowboarders. I mean, although I used different snowboarders and the soundtrack remained the same, I didn't feel like the music tempo is faster than the snowboarders, vice versa. I think it's because the SFX guy was doing a really fantastic job at doing this. Thus, both of the SFX and the background music are a compliment toward each other.
Nevertheless, there are lots of SFX added inside the game, showing how much efforts and details Snowman has put inside a runner game like Alto's Adventure. Starting from sound of the snowboard sliding through the snow, the sound of the llamas, the voice when you do a successful trick, the lightning sound, when you grinding through the flag, or when you go through a flock of bird. There are so many SFX going on at the same time and that has leveraged and make the audio and the graphics in the same level of awesomeness.
The last awesome things from Alto's Adventure that I want to tell you is the quests. The quests here are required to be done in order to level-up. Well, you and I can even know this without playing the game. Leveling up is no way near easy. You are required to do some tasks that even "impossible" (I'm stucked for a very long time at doing two times triple backflip in one run). The quests however, prove once again about the design capability of the game developer. Despite the impossibility of the quests, some of the quests are involving some small detail that you're not going to notice until the quest for that detail is showing. For instance, in one quest, you need to bounce on the rock. Before I meet this quest in Level 16, I would normally avoid the rock, but because of this quest, I need to change the way I'd normally play. Moreover, once you've completed the quest, you'll be feel refreshed, it's like a playing a new updated Alto's Adventure. Meaning, these quests don't just sit there, it also became that other core product of Alto's Adventure, to keep you play and to keep you interested with the game.
Tips and Tricks
During the game, I personally find that the tricks in appunwrapper.com are very helpful to me, so if you might want to check their tips. As from me, I would like to help you to understand the quests that might be difficult to understand. So here's my list.
Super Coin & Magnet
Super coin can be acquired by passing through a cog-shaped gold coin. One super coin can contain more coins that the usual coin would give. Magnet is the first power up in the game. Once you picked it up, the coins will come to you without you having to pass it.
Feather, Llamas, and Wooden Ramp
Feather is the second power up in the game. Feather will make your snowboarder floating from the ground a little bit. So when the quest is telling you to hover 'something', you need to pass through that particular 'thing' while feather power-up is activated. Llamas is the only animals here that always running away from you. You just need to find any cute animal and that's the llama. Screenshot aboves is showing you what a wooden ramp look like. So if you find a quest that related with ramp, you just need to find this kind of ramp, and jump over it.
Grind, Bunting Flags
Grind is like a rope that tied between two poles. There will be some quests that need you to grind for some time. You just need to jump in the rope and let the game automatically count your record. Flags are the little triangle that tied up in the rope. It will be ripped off as you grind over it.
Forest/Village, Rooftops, & Chasm Jump
Forest/Village is just a location that can be passed through as you play the game. You just need to live as long as you can and you'll get there before you know. Jumping over into rooftop can be quite tricky. Usually at the end of the rope that you grind over, there will be rooftop after it. In order to reach the rooftop you can jump at the end of the rope. Chasm Jump is simple, you just need to jump from anything that from something, to a ground. So jumping between cliffs is a chasm jump. Jumping from rooftops can also be considered as one. Jumping from grinding also can be considered a chasm jump as well.
Elder & Firecamp
Elder is one of the antagonist here. He will make sure that you won't be disturbing his sleep. That's why he will chase you down. The ultimate way to escape elder is to jump over a chasm. Until you find one, you have to speed up your snowboarder by doing tricks and combos. Otherwise, he will chase you and teach you some lesson. Firecamp is a place where there is a fire on it. You need to avoid this just like you avoid rock. There is also a quest that require you to backflip over a firecamp. You can also find a firecamp with elder sleeping beside it.
To smash rocks, you need to build up your speed first. You can always do this by doing tricks like backflip or jumping over chasm. You can also use ice to build up your speed. You know your speed is there when you have this sort of air shield around you. Then you can blast through rock with it. Remember that this 'air shield' isn't last long, so take attention on that.
Combo is a collection of tricks you're able to do before you land in the ground. Every trick you do will be counted as one combo. The more tricks you can do before landing to the ground, the more score you can get.
Wing Suit is the third power-up in the game. You can trigger wing suit by doing tricks and from the snowboarder scarf. Everytime you do tricks, your scarf will longwise. Once it reach certain length, it will turn into white and you can tap the wingsuit icon in the left screen.
Proximity Backflip is a backflip but in a very short height. To do this easily, you just need to find a feather power up, and while snowboarding, do a backflip, and you will get a proximity backflip in no time.
Kiss the Rail
My last tips to help you finish the quest is Kiss the Rail quest. To do this, you need to grind on the rope first. Then before it finish, you jump so that you land just before the rope ends. Thus, the quest will be completed.
I don't feel like honest is playing part when the game is actually as gorgeous as Alto's Adventure. All the elements are put there with purpose, there's no wasted, useless element that's just there for a cosmetic purpose. I don't think any endless runner fan would just miss out this opportunity. In fact, I think if you're not a fan of endless runner, you should try Alto's Adventure. It might change your opinion and change your life too :)