Meditation In Motion With Alto's Odyssey

Meditation In Motion With Alto's Odyssey

How the newest game in the Alto series makes the most of its broadened horizons.
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After a brief reflection on the newest Monument Valley installment, I was recently introduced to another mesmerizing mobile phone game: Alto's Odyssey. It's actually a follow-up to another Team Alto release, Alto's Adventure -- a collaboration between Canadian studio Snowman and lead artist/programmer Harry Nesbitt -- but my entrance to the series starts here. I'm discovering that I might have a certain taste for cerebral games; both are minimalist in character design but striking in their color palette and sense of environment (a picture says a thousand words is a pretty apt metaphor here), but that is where the similarities end.

The game opens on raspy, meditative chords, not dissimilar to the opening notes of Trevor Morris's theme for Bioware's Dragon Age: Inquisition. The association alone had my breath catching in my throat and tugging at my heartstrings. The title screen is set against a horizon awash in dawn and speckled with hot air balloons as the sun slowly rises to scorch the hills upon hills of sand. If I wait long enough even the text fades away, and I am alone in the middle of a vast desert. But, with a tap, a blur enters from the left side of the screen and Alto is there, sandboard slamming onto the slopes.

My choices are limited -- jump or not jump, flip or don't flip -- but that doesn't mean the experience has to be as well. I guide Alto through countless biomes in a never-ending cycle of day and night, of wind and rain and dusk. There are sets of three goals at a time -- such as "Discover The Canyons", "Break a pot using a lotus flower", or the easy-breezy "Backflip off of a hot air balloon" -- that string me along and give me a concrete reason to play. I collect glowing coins along the slopes, which I can trade in at the Workshop for stronger helmets, extra lives, and special items. The scarf trailing behind Alto grows longer the farther I'm able to go or the more combos I'm able to land in one run, and after a certain amount of time I can even spot brightly-colored Birds of Paradise hovering over Alto's shoulder, curious at my progress. I quickly sink into the rhythm of the game, calculating the time and distance of my jumps, distinguishing between rocks and plant life, and cringing when I overestimate the number of flips I can accomplish in one go. But the game doesn't seem to mind my many failures: it promptly tells me to dust off and try again. "Don't worry, crashes happen!"

The more goals I accomplish the more levels I ascend, which gradually allows my boarder to progress further into entirely new zones, with new platforms and abilities and characters to spice it up a little. When I find myself getting too incensed (usually because I can't shake a pesky lemur off my tail) I can return to the title screen and swipe to the left, activating what I'm calling Zen Mode and leaving me with only the horizon and a simplistic, rotating drawing of the sun. I focus on the sun and the swaying cacti as my breathing levels off, and I'm ready to try again or go about my day.

I know Alto's Odyssey has so much more to offer me -- hours of smooth gliding, new areas, contemplative tunes, and more characters to test out on the slopes -- but the game makes it clear that I must work for such simple pleasures. I have to fail many times before I can accomplish menial goals, each one taking me further down the slopes than the last. It knows exactly what kind of game it is, and excels in all quadrants: it has gorgeous graphics, runs smoothly, doesn't overload me with objectives or abilities, and is overall one of the most meditative games I've played just to pass the time. Perhaps the best way to wake up is with Alto in your cup!

Alto's Odyssey is now available for download on iOS devices in the App Store.

Cover Image Credit: Team Alto

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25 Responses To Your Friend Who Doesn't Text Back

Omg thanks for responding so quickly...oh, wait.
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We all have that friend. That friend we love to death, but if we are sure of anything in this world, it’s that they will not respond to your text because they suck at texting. That moment when you see “Read 1:04 p.m.” and you’re like “and???? Helloooooooo!”

These are 25 responses for that dear friend.

1. Lol thanks for tagging me in that FB post, now text me tf back.


2. OMG, wait you met Chris Hemsworth and he’s professing his love to you??!! No? Okay, then you can def text me back.

3. Hey I’m coming to help you since you obviously broke your thumbs and can’t respond.

4. Lolol thanks for responding. I’ll just continue the conversation with myself. That’s cool.

5. Good chat.

6. Yeah I wouldn’t know how to respond either, pizza topping selection is a thought-provoking process. Take your time. Meditate on it.

7. The classic: ^^^^^^^^^


8. I hope you’re writing me the 8th Harry Potter novel.

9. That was a yes or no question. This isn’t difficult. You wouldn’t do well with ‘Sophie’s Choice.’

10. Omg, did you pass out from the excitement of getting a text from me? Totally understandable. Text me when you regain consciousness, love.

11. Omg what a witty and clever response. Nothing. So philosophical.

12. The only excuse I’ll accept is if you’re eating guac and don’t want to get it on your phone. Because avocados are life.

13. I love it when you do that adorable thing when you don’t text me back for hours. So cute.


14. Okay I’ll answer for you. Yes, you’re going out tonight. Glad we had this convo.

15. In the time it has taken you to respond, dinosaurs could have retaken the earth.

16. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHA

17. The dramatic but also very valid response: That’s what happens when you don’t respond for 30 minutes. People die.


18. I apologize for asking if you were coming to watch Bachelor, clearly the decision has caused you serious reflection on your priorities. I’m sorry to have caused you this existential crisis.

19. Sorry I annoyed you with my friendship. But like plz respond…

20. Your response time is longer than Ross and Rachel’s entire relationship. 10 seasons. You couldn’t text me back for 10 seasons?!!

21. Wait. You’re responding too fast. I can’t keep up. Hang on. Don’t respond so quickly. Jeez.

22. A subtle but perfectly placed gif. What will you go with? The classic eye roll perhaps or maybe a “you suck.”


23. Did you fall off a cliff? Wait, you don’t exercise. Pause your Netflix and respond b*tch.

24. Omg I WON THE LOTTERY. *responds* Lol now you respond…

25. And my personal favorite and go to, Did you text me and then decide to THROW YOUR PHONE ACROSS THE OCEAN?! Lol swim fast, I need an answer.

Cover Image Credit: http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8289/7759302068_fac2dfd31d_b.jpg

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I Am Scared For The Futures Of Our Technology-Dependent Children

When did the cyber world take over the real one?

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I remember as a child playing outside from the time that I woke up until it was time for dinner. I did everything outside; basketball with my brother in the driveway, catch with my dad in the yard, even reading and homework on the porch. Rainy days were my worst nightmare because it meant that I would be stuck inside. And while maybe I was just an overly active and outdoorsy kid, today's younger generation seems to lack any and all desire to be outside, and unfortunately, I think I know why.

Children of today are overly dependent on electronics and technology for all sources of entertainment. I hate being cliché with lines like, "When I was a kid…" or "Back in the day…" but I can't help it. As a nanny for three young boys, ages 7 (twins) and 13, I witness the impact that technology has had on the younger generations every day.

At my job, each morning begins with the children waking up and walking directly to their iPods, sometimes with their eyes still closed! It's as if they've been brainwashed into this routine that has become second nature to them. They refuse to speak to anyone and make sure to tune you out with wireless headphones that blast their YouTube videos, television shows, and games. They are completely invested in their devices and immersed in this bubble that seems to block out the real world.

Playing outside seems like a trend from the past. Children today would rather draw on an app on an iPad than use crayons and paper; they would rather text or FaceTime each other than interacting in person; and, they would much rather play FIFA on their Xbox than go outside and kick a soccer ball. But what has caused this need to be connected through wires, batteries, and electricity? Are we as a society enabling children in the midst of diabetes and obesity concerns?

Just look inside schools and you'll be surprised. The newest MacBooks are on every student's desk in the high school. Middle schoolers are given laptops in addition to iPads for their daily use in school. What happened to pen and paper, or is that now considered old-fashioned? Elementary level students go to the school library to play on computers rather than check out books.

I take the kids that I nanny to the Kids Academy at Lifetime Fitness and was shocked to see iPads in the kids' center the first time I went. I thought to myself, why would a gym that promotes healthy and active lifestyles encourage children to be stationary in front of a screen? I can't help but wonder is it because I wasn't exposed to any of this until I was older or is there seriously an issue?

Recently at work, my eyes were truly opened and my concern began. I took away one of the children's iPods as a punishment and in return, the boy told me "I wish you were dead," all because I took away his electronic device. At that moment, his attachment and dependency on technology fueled his emotional reaction and I was left speechless.

I hate to admit it, but sometimes it is easier to make children quiet by giving them your phone or putting the television on and distracting them; however, we need to find a balance between the cyber world and the real one.

Cover Image Credit:

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