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A Stunning Snowboarding Game Lets You Glide Down an Endless Mountain

'Alto’s Adventure' is a beautifully crafted video game that will have you hitting the slopes again and again.
February 26, 2016, 3:05pm
All images courtesy of Snowman

Alto’s Adventure is such an immersive experience, it’s hard to believe it’s being channeled through a mobile-sized screen. Its beauty is in the details: the tiny shadow reflected in the snow as you leap into the air for a backflip, the birds flying away in fear as you tear down a hill, the satisfying sound of your board pressing down on the snow. Overhead, the sky is constantly shifting, drenching you in darkness and rain during a midnight storm, then offering solace a few moments later with the soft, rosy hues of dawn.

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Alto’s side-scrolling, endless snowboarding odyssey is just over a year old. Originally released for iOS devices in February 2015, to immediate acclaim, the video game is now available for free on Android. The app was built by Ryan Cash and Jordan Rosenberg, the founders of the Toronto-based software studio Snowman, with UK illustrator and developer Harry Nesbitt. Nesbitt’s participation was a deal breaker, according to Cash: “It was almost as though if Harry wasn’t interested, we weren’t going to try out the project at all. Fortunately, he was.”

Before Alto’s, Snowman was mostly making productivity-enhancing apps. One of their ideas for a personal lockbox app felt vaguely reminiscent of the game Simon, and sparked the team’s interest in producing a video game themselves. The result was Circles, an elegant take on classic memory games. “Shortly after we started working on Circles, Jordan and I started tossing around the idea of making a snowboarding game,” explains Cash.

Both are passionate about the sport, and, more than anything else, wanted to capture the feeling of being out there, strapping on a snowboard, and sliding down a mountain. For inspiration, they went down memory lane. “Jordan and I grew up as kids playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater together (sometimes until 5 or 6 AM), and we even picked up a used PS2 to get back into the older versions that we were obsessed with as kids.”

“But it’s not just that,” adds Cash. “I was also inspired by things like the movie Into the Wild, and that sense of being alone in nature. Harry had his own visual sources of inspiration, including games like Journey and Ico.”

Cash and Rosenberg spent some time sketching their initial ideas, then sent them over to Nesbitt, who “pretty much nailed it on his first take,” according to Cash. “Once we had some initial beta versions that we could play, we started getting a little more creative, adding things like dynamic weather and lighting, and multiple characters.” Slowly, Alto’s became its own magical universe, with unique, fanciful elements making their way in, like llamas galloping down the hills, and angry elders that chase after you. With enough coins, you can strap on a wingsuit and really take to the skies.

The game took two years to launch. It was “'pretty much finished' for quite a long time,” notes Cash. “But we spent ages and ages refining things, tweaking things, and adding little touches. Like, for instance, the tiny fireflies that buzz around lights. Something I didn’t even notice until after the game launched!”

Alto’s Adventure is out now for iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire.

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