Tiny Wings (59p/99 cents) by Andreas Illiger is one my favourite iPhone apps. For a start, it’s about a bird – and everyone loves birds, even when they’re angry. The bird in question here is young and innocent; he’s yet to discover the world. Wide-eyed, he looks out from his nest and sees beautiful rolling hills, but he can’t explore them. And why? He can’t fly properly: The poor fella’ has tiny, tiny wings.
Your goal is to help the bird explore as much of the world as possible before night falls. He might not be able to fly, but he can glide over hills so that they act like jumps, sending him through the air – him squawking sweetly, his wings flapping as he has a whale of a time. You touch the screen to make him stop flapping his wings, and gravity will pull him to the ground. You need to judge when to do this correctly, so that he smoothly leaps from hill to hill without slowing down. If you do slow him down too much, night will engulf him, and he’ll probably become so afraid that he never ventures out into the big, wide world again. You wouldn’t want to do that to him now, would you?
The app demonstrates perfectly how effective an ‘easy to learn but difficult to master’ gameplay mechanic can be. Getting as far as possible is stupidly addictive. I’ve probably spent a total time of several days playing Tiny Wings, but I still want to play more – I’m even struggling to write this review because I keep getting distracted by the game. That has to be a good thing.
Adding to the addiction is an objectives system, where completing fun tasks like playing the game upside-down earns the bird new nests (sticks and rubbish are nowhere near as fashionable as yellow and orange shawls covered in mini blue pom-poms), and nets you a higher points multiplier – that is, you’ll earn more points for jumping into the clouds, or doing a ‘great slide’ (smoothly jumping between hills). Points can be multiplied through other means too; doing three ‘great slides’ in a row makes you enter ‘fever mode’, where all points are worth double. Little things like this add further depth to the game, enhancing its central mechanic.
Tiny Wings features insanely pretty graphics and brilliantly charming audio. Both are clean, crisp and perfect for the game. The best thing about the graphics is that they are progressive – that is, they change every day. Hills are covered in completely different patterns and colours every 24 hours, meaning that the game’s visuals never feel old or repetitive. The game also has an easy-to-navigate interface, with an easily accessed replay button. It contains leaderboards, achievements, and even displays stats about your most recent play session in the pause menu.
Overall, Ting Wings is a unique, refreshing app that everyone should own. It might benefit from a bit more variety through different modes, but that’s probably just me being greedy. There’s some magic ingredient that separates good apps from great ones, and Tiny Wings contains it by the bucketload.
Overall Rating: 9/10