Sandboarding isn’t what most people would call calming. The adrenaline of riding a board along some sand dunes sounds like an extreme sport, but Alto’s Odyssey has turned the experience into one of the most zen games on the mobile market.

Team Alto developed Alto’s Odyssey for iOS, with an Android port produced by Noodlecake Studios. The game constantly triggers a satisfying hit of dopamine in the simplest way. Every time you fall off your board, you’ll want to get back up and beat your previous score. Alto’s Odyssey fits perfectly on mobile, allowing you to scratch that “just one more” itch whenever you want.

Finding Your Zenter

Alto's Odyssey Nighttime
Rivers in the desert? I guess I won’t complain.

Alto’s Odyssey is a simple game to play. Alto, the eponymous character, rides the sandy dunes from left to right. Occasionally, some chasms, rocks or other obstacles get in his way, and to clear them, the player taps the screen to jump. Alto starts doing a backflip when the player keeps their finger on the screen, and each revolution counts as a trick. As long as the board is parallel enough with the ground, he lands cleanly and gets a nice speed boost.

The environments provide more opportunities for tricks, including bouncing off the top of air balloons and wall-riding. The genius of this endless runner lies in the straightforward control scheme, in that everything is controlled by a tap or a hold. Because of the low barrier of understanding, players can easily enter a state of flow, forgetting about their worries for a little bit. The difficulty curve is more than manageable, and before you know it, you’ll be responsible for making Alto string together a bunch of cool tricks.

A Breath of Fresh Air

Alto's Odyssey Vines
Despite relying on silhouettes a lot, the game finds a way to show off a vibrant sunset.

Alto’s Odyssey is at its best when you beat your previous high score or get farther than you have before. But there’s more to the game aside from its addicting core gameplay loop. The visual aesthetic pops with the vibrant contrast between the foreground and background. Even during the nighttime cycles, the bright light of the moon or the violent eruptions of lightning highlight the silhouette of Alto and the terrain. The color palette switches from vivid to beautifully washed out within minutes of play, creating a visual spectacle that doesn’t upstage the gameplay.

And let’s not forget about the sound design of Alto’s Odyssey. The soundtrack isn’t extensive, but every track you hear will sit in your brain for hours. Each song matches the aesthetic in some way, hitting the same vibrant yet calming atmosphere the game creates. Even the sound effects — from the menu transitions to the coin collecting — come together to build an alluring soundscape.

Alto's Odyssey Chasm
These screenshots might be pretty, but they pale in comparison to seeing the game in motion.

Alto’s Odyssey is a game that keeps on giving. Unfortunately, the game contains microtransactions, but I’d recommend against buying them. They unlock content you can get further in the game, pretty much killing any motivation to earn anything in the long run. Enjoying what the game has to offer without microtransactions creates the perfect balance between enjoying the journey while working toward a goal.

In essence, Alto’s Odyssey takes advantage of its platform. The non-committal gameplay and easily digestible controls complements the pick-up-and-play mentality of mobile gaming. The aesthetics and atmosphere stand out, especially on newer devices. Team Alto deserves the praise it’s getting about its newest game, and the best part is: If you’re hungry for more, there’s always Alto’s Adventure. If you want something beyond Alto’s two great journeys, check out last week’s Mobile Monday for five other great mobile games from 2018.

Alto’s Odyssey was played for free on a Samsung Galaxy S8+. The game costs $4.99 on iOS and can be downloaded for free on Google Play.

Stay tuned for even more great mobile games every Monday!