When the team behind the serene adventure Alto’s Odyssey were working on the sequel, they had a lot of ideas that didn’t make it into the final release. One of those was a vibrant city that would be the game’s fourth biome, joining the existing desert, canyons, and ancient temples. For various reasons, the city was cut from the final release. But when the chance came to bring the game to Apple Arcade as part of the streaming service’s recent expansion, it made sense to go back to the concept.
The result is Alto’s Odyssey: The Lost City, which is coming to Arcade next week. “We’re thinking of The Lost City as a special edition of Alto’s Odyssey,” says lead artist and designer Harry Nesbitt. “We’ve been able to go back to the drawing board a little bit.”
The core of the game will remain the same as the original version. That means The Lost City is an endless runner, where players ride a sandboard across a procedurally-generated desert landscape. It’s a mix of chill and challenge that has made the series so enduring. The Apple Arcade version simply adds a new area — but one that really changes the tone. “It’s very much a living, breathing city,” says Nesbitt. “It’s not a dusty ruin or empty wilderness like some of the other spaces we’ve depicted. It’s vibrant and alive, and has almost a party atmosphere to it.”
One of the challenges, he says, was making sure that the new area wasn’t too much of a jolt to players. The team didn’t want players jumping straight from a quiet desert to a bustling city, which is where the procedural aspect of Alto came in handy.
“It’s definitely something we tried to be careful with,” he explains. “We don’t want it to be jarring in any sense. But because it’s a procedural game, we already have a natural progression for revealing new content to players. We try not to throw everything at them at once; we try to pace it out so that one thing leads to another. Just as you’re getting comfortable with one aspect of the game, a new thread opens up.”
The expanded version of the game also offered a chance to build on the storytelling, something that’s grown over the course of the series. While the Alto games don’t have an explicit story with cutscenes or dialogue, there is clear worldbuilding going on. As Nesbitt explains it, the developers want players to feel like there’s more that “exists beyond the edges of the screen.”
And while the idea dates back a few years, the current version of The Lost City was inspired in part by the pandemic, and the fact that so many of us have been trapped inside, largely unable to travel or experience the outdoors. “I think Alto’s Odyssey has always been a little bit about the idea of traveling and going outside of your comfort zone,” says Nesbitt, “and The Lost City is a natural extension of that idea.”
Alto’s Odyssey: The Lost City launches on Apple Arcade on July 16th.