On paper, Alto’s Adventure sounds boring: As the snowboarding main character Alto, you glide down a mountain until you crash. And when you crash? Well, you head right back up to the top again. In practice, however, it’s so much more than its reverse-Sisyphean concept. Its stunning visuals, clever design and overall elegance make it not only a compelling game to play in spare moments, but a genuine time-suck. (That’s a compliment.)
The controls are simple. Alto jumps onto his snowboard when you tap and goes into a backflip when you hold your finger down. Timing is everything: You may make a beautiful jump, but muff the landing and end up with a face full of snow or hear a disconcerting thud. But the game is smartly designed to keep you from getting frustrated. The landscape changes each time you have to restart, so you don’t keep trying to get past the same point. It’s more expensive than the average mobile game, but well worth it. $1.99, for iOS.