Back in 2011, Tiny Wings swept the world. Smartphone users were obsessed with the little bird that made use of momentum and gravity to fly as far as it could before sunset arrived, weighing itself down with every tap as a counterforce to make the feeling of liftoff as freeing as it was in reality. The use of physics in gameplay made a big splash then, as each momentum buildup became addictive to mobile gamers, and the use of taps made its big break.
Fast forward to today, when we have Alto’s Adventure.
Granted, the gameplay is slightly different: You have a lone snowboarder named Alto, who happens to also have a herd of llamas that each day decides to run off because Alto had neglected to invest in a good fence. All you have to do, as the gamer controlling Alto, is to tap to jump, and tap and hold to rotate into a backflip. You earn points by completing tricks, like doing a double backflip in midair, or catching llamas, and you can collect coins along the way for upgrades.
Nonetheless, the journey to retrieve each llama (which simply requires you to go pass them), brings you through beautiful landscapes and smooth snowy hills, peppered with the occasional treacherous rock or rainbow coloured bunting you can ride on like you were skateboarding on a metal railing.
Alto’s survival across each obstacle and terrain lies solely in — like Tiny Wings — your intuition in the laws of physics. Neglect to get enough momentum before a jump and you will crash into the ravine; time a backflip badly in mid-air and you will crash in the mountainside on your back. But make the jump across a wide crevice while completing a double backflip, and you will believe that you are flying. A win will feel exhilarating, and the game draws you in, making you believe that you are Alto, and that flying across the landscapes on your snowboard could be that easy.
It also doesn’t hurt that the scenery is beautiful, almost reminiscent of the gorgeous Monument Valley with its flat panels and glorious mountainous horizon. And as you play, you get to experience sunrise, daybreak, sunset, lightning storms and the elusive night-time, where rocks are harder to see and coins glow ominously. It could be the most beautiful mobile game of 2015 so far.
It does hurt that the game comes with a USD1.99 price tag, but every Monument Valley fan would tell you that great design always comes at a cost.
So if you’re hoping to fly again, the way you did with Tiny Wings, then Alto’s Adventure is the game for you. Just make sure that you’re on iOS, of course.