There are very few games that launched three years ago that still take up real estate on my iPhone; Alto's Adventure is one of them. Needless to say, I have been following the development of Alto's Odyssey very closely, and have been dying to get my hands on it.

I have been sliding down the sand dunes with Alto and his buddies for a couple weeks now, and every time I play it, I'm still finding that same sense of joy, amazement, and wonder that I did when I first launched the game. If Alto's Adventure is any indication, Alto's Odyssey will be a permanent fixture on my iPhone Home screen for years to come.

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The next emotional chapter

Serenity and I had the chance to talk with Team Alto — the development team behind Alto's Odyssey — and lots of different team members explained to us that they never thought of Alto's Odyssey as a sequel, but rather tried "to create another game set in the same world that taps into a different set of emotions." I know, to some of you that must sound like developer mumbo-jumbo, but I implore you to play Alto's Adventure and Alto's Odyssey back to back, and I guarantee you will see what they mean. Alto's Odyssey doesn't just look different than its predecessor, it feels way different.

Alto's Odyssey trades in the bright, snowy, and colorful palette of the first game for a much warmer, darker environment. The desert — while stunningly gorgeous — feels harsher and less forgiving than the slopes Alto's used to and the new landscape provides a plethora of new challenges for players to discover.

The entire game feels more introspective than Alto's Adventure ever did — Zen Mode included — and while I love playing Alto's Odyssey for hours at a time, I did notice that after an extended session, I was in a much calmer and reflective mood.

If you take anything away from this it should be this: Alto's Odyssey is an experience that will likely make you feel something. That's an extremely hard thing for a mobile game to accomplish, but the incredible artwork, music, gameplay, and overall game design of Alto's Odyssey really make it something special.

New obstacles, creatures, and goals abound

Just because the desert is a little harsher than snowy slopes of the first game, doesn't mean that Alto's Odyssey isn't chock full of fun. The game does an excellent job of using the new setting to its advantage and taking the concepts and gaming style of the first game and making them better.

The very core mechanics of the game haven't changed. You're still controlling a cast of offbeat characters who explore a terrain-heavy endless runner while attempting an array of board-based tricks across a beautiful, ever-changing landscape. Collecting coins, dodging obstacles, and completing goals will allow you to level up and purchase power-ups for the in-game store. As you may have guessed, it all flows extremely smoothly and is just as addictive as the first incarnation. Alto's Odyssey continues to build on that well-defined core and throws awesome new challenges at players in almost every run.

I don't want to ruin the entire game for you by laying out all the different places, animals, and obstacles you're bound to come across in the game, but I will give you a quick glance at one of my favorite additions to the Alto universe: lemurs.

As you progress through the game, you will sometimes cross paths with a lemur, and unfortunately for you, all lemurs want to knock you off your board. The lemurs are faster than Alto, and the only way you can avoid lemurs is to do enough tricks and build up your speed. The problem is you don't choose when lemurs are coming at you, and more often than not, it's at a time when it's hard to do tricks. This creates a few moments of tension, which forces you out of your comfort zone and compels you to attempt tricks where you may not normally. It completely changes how you look at the game — even if it's only for a few minutes — and it's a shining example of how Alto's Odyssey is very much a worthy game in its own right.

Download it now

If you liked Alto's Adventure, then downloading Alto's Odyssey is a no-brainer. You're getting everything you loved about the first game in a more robust and polished package.

If you're new to the Alto universe, Alto's Odyssey is a worthy game in its own right. It doesn't lean too heavily on its past, and it's a very approachable game for people who are new to the series.

The best thing about Alto's Odyssey is it doesn't have to replace Alto's Adventure in your collection. I plan on keeping both on my Home screen for years to come and will gladly bounce back and forth between the two.

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Other games this week

Of course, I can't write a full review of every game I try out. Here are some other games that crossed my radar this week that are worth checking out.

Florence: This interactive storybook is from the lead designer behind Monument Valley. The story follows the highs and lows of a young woman's first encounter with love. The emotional tale is bound to tug at your heartstrings. $2.99 in the App Store

Dig Dog — Treasure Hunter: A roguelike action platformer, Dig Dog is a simple and fun game. Dig for bones across various worlds and dodge enemies and obstacles in your way. $2.99 in the App Store

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