iOS Spotlight: Tiny Wings

Tiny Wings represents everything that’s wonderful about modern mobile gaming. It’s a simple game — there’s only a single action for the player to perform — that’s elevated by its addictiveness and charm. Oh and it’s a dollar.

The product of a single developer, Andreas Illiger, Tiny Wings casts the player as…well a bird with tiny wings. He has always dreamed of flight, but alas, his wings are to small to support such aviatic ambitions. The gameplay boils down to a single gesture: hold your finger on the screen to tuck in your wings and descend faster, making sure to math up the angle of your descent with the hill you’re about to collide with. When done correctly the bird gains speed and is launched off of the next hill to his (and your, but more on that later) delight. A successful series of these launches you into fever mode (score multiplier) and produces a wild amount of speed.

Getting lost in the speed at which the bird is moving is part of the fun. It’s reminiscent of Sonic The Hedgehog, as your character will sometimes be moving so quickly it becomes a bit difficult to follow or control, but it is thrilling.

The first thing you’ll likely notice are the bright colorful visuals. The bird lives in a land of beautiful, psychedelic, rainbow hills, which are actually procedurally generated meaning you’ll get a different look every time you play. As the sunset chases you (yes, sunset is game over as the bird falls asleep and is forced to only dream about flight yet again) the world’s colors are washed in the red warmth of sunlight. It’s a stunning visual effect.

Where Tiny Wings really succeeds though is selling what barren narrative and character development it actually has. We’re told the bird can’t fly, but it is his dream to and as the player it is our job to help him accomplish this task. Once you become acquainted with the controls and are successfully launching the bird into the clouds, you get a real sense that yes, you have helped this little guy fulfill his dreams.

The big jump that ends each island is the moment of greatest impact. The bird slides down a massive hill, gaining a ton of speed and is finally flung into the clouds across a great expanse. He let’s out a joyous “YEEHOO.” If you haven’t smiled yet while playing, you definitely will here — and if you don’t smile after the big jump well, I’m afraid you might be a robot.

You’re smiling with the bird. Helping someone to accomplish a life-dream is a thrilling cathartic experience and Tiny Wings delivers that in a bite-sized 99 cent game. It’s a real triumph in the use of sound and simple narrative  that creates something that’s far too rare in video games: a true emotion evoking experience — and positive emotions at that! (take that Neil Young and Stephen Spielberg! )

Tiny Wings is an essential iOS experience. The beautiful visuals and charming music, simple, addictive score-based gameplay and of course the emotional impact all combine to create what is really a perfect depiction of the beauty of iOS gaming. It’s bite-sized and simple, but nuanced in all the right ways. It’s an experience designed in every way to take advantage of the strengths and limits of its platform and deserve every of ounce of success it’s receiving.

Please go buy it!

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About Matt Gerardi
Matt Gerardi is a journalist and musician. He also happens to write about video games.

One Response to iOS Spotlight: Tiny Wings

  1. Mike says:

    I’ll buy it if/when it comes to android. Or maybe just steal my brothers iphone and buy it on there.. That game just puts a smile on my face.

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