Laya’s Horizon review: Don’t miss Netflix’s mini masterpiece

Laya's Horizon review: Don't miss Netflix's mini masterpiece

Did you know the creators of mega-hit mobile games Alto’s Adventure and Alto’s Odyssey released their first 3D open-world game in May? It’s true, and it rules. So why have you probably not heard about it? Unfortunately, Laya’s Horizon is the latest victim of the muddy mobile marketplace.

Netflix published the game on iOS and Android, meaning it’s only playable if you log in to the app with active Netflix credentials. However, that’s also the good news! If you already have a Netflix login, this brilliant game is effectively free.

Let me echo that word “brilliant.” Laya’s Horizon applies the Alto aesthetic to a mountainous island. You zip down the cliffs using a cape as if it were a wingsuit. With two fingers on the touchscreen, you steer the character down mine shafts and under bridges at breakneck speed.

I admittedly held some skepticism while loading Laya’s Horizon. Most sprawling open-world designs don’t align with me spending a few minutes on my smartphone here and there. And how could a mobile game from a comparably small team do something new with this genre that’s been the bread and butter of big-budget console gaming for more than a decade?

Developer Snowman cleverly solves this problem by working smarter, not harder, than its contemporaries. Laya’s Horizon is effectively a limitless series of flights down its enormous mountain. The trick lies in where — and how — the game begins.

I think it helps to think of the map like a pizza. Imagine being an ant, standing in the center of a sliced ​​pizza, and each slice of this pizza has different toppings: One has pepperoni, another has mushroom, another pineapple, and so on. From your ant-sized POV, you look around and see six or so corners of pizza slices. By turning 360 degrees, you can see every flavor option. But the farther you get from the center of the pie, the bigger each piece gets, spreading with the expanding circumference. If you skitter onto the pepperoni slice, soon you will be surrounded by greasy meat and the rest of the pizza slices will disappear in the horizon.

That’s how Laya’s Horizon works: You stand atop the mountain at the center of the island and see hints of biomes, like a swamp, snowy slopes, and a busy village. Glide toward any biome and it spreads wider and wider the farther you travel, until suddenly, you’re in a sprawling slice of dense forest.

A woman soars into the clouds in Laya's Horizon.

Picture: Snowman/Netflix

What do you do in the game? Just glide, in its various forms. The game always provides three fresh goals (like flying near 30 trees or boosting for 10 seconds) that improve your level once completed; this in turn unlocks new capes with different styles of flight. Fly dangerously close to the ground, buildings, or trees and you’ll earn sparks that can be spent on the aforementioned boosts. And those boosts, along with tastes of wind that pepper the map, will help you reach new landing points, from which you can start your next run — or just catch your breath on your way to the ocean level.

Laya’s Horizon is a chill-out game, above all else. The only real thing to do is have a nice time. And now that you know it exists, that’s possible!

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