Alto is a snowboarding llama farmer. There’s probably few more succinct and wonderful character descriptions than that, and here, in an endless-snowboarding-tricking-llama-catching game where your charges have headed off down the mountainous slopes, it’s undoubtedly the one for our protagonist.
The Alto Collection pulls together the two previously mobile-exclusive Alto games – Alto’s Adventure and Alto’s Odyssey – and drops them onto console. In gaming it’s hard not to think of Greek assassins and Italian plumbers when you hear the word ‘odyssey’ – sorry Homer – but it’s a fair assessment to say that Alto’s journey is a substantially different one.
Alto snowboards – or sandboards in his Odyssey – down, across and over a simplistic, but unequivocally beautiful series of mountain ranges, snow fields and sand dunes. As an endless runner, it’s mostly about not stopping, and your only real goal is to stay on that board, avoiding rocks, crevasses and landing on your head in order to do so.
Given its touchscreen origins, Alto’s Collection is a true single-button experience. One press sees Alto hop, or leap, over an oncoming obstacle, while holding it down sees him jump and begin a relatively slow rotation that can earn you extra Trick points, a speed boost and shield if you stick the landing. That’s really all there is to it, but somehow it manages to spin out a relaxing and compulsive game experience that eternally demands one more go.
There’s hints of experiential games like Journey here, and in fairness, the game’s central sliding, evocative and impactful visuals, and gentle audio tones were almost certainly born out of a love and respect for thatgamecompany’s timeless classic. This is an even more stripped back rendition of a similar idea, but it’s no less likely to creep its way into your psyche.
Whether sliding in the snow or the sand, the end of each run gives you a breakdown of your achievements, starting with distance travelled and trick scores, up to chasms jumped and Goals completed. As you progress you gain access to a small selection of upgrades via the Workshop that will allow you to press on ever further across the endless landscape, from helmets that let you fall once during a run, to permanent upgrades for pick-ups like the magnet that pulls coins towards you.
Goals carry over from run to run, and it’s here that each Alto game builds a more conventional sense of progression. Three different Goals need completing in order for you to level up, at which point you’re then presented with another, slightly tougher trio to work on. They certainly help generate a different way of attacking each run, perhaps focussing on tricks one time, before shifting to overall distance in the next, but they’re not designed to slow you down so much as slide alongside you.
In the long run, the game is challenging you, and nobody else. It feels as though it’s begging for online leaderboards so you can be completely laidback about rubbing your success in other’s faces. Instead you’ll just have to settle for personal knowledge, and that feels so much more satisfying… right?
The major caveat here is that The Alto Collection is a sweet, but fundamentally repetitive experience. Despite the ever-changing, procedurally generated courses, once you’ve spent a few minutes with either Adventure or Odyssey, they’ll have shown you their hand, and you’re going to swiftly discover if it’s not for you. Alternatively, that simplicity and repetition makes it a perfect piece of brain-massaging goodness, sucking away hours with about the same friction as a board on snow. At a fraction under $10 – it’s actually free on the Epic Games Store in its first week – it’s at least not a terribly expensive translation to console and PC.