iPhone review of the day: Tiny Wings is a big win with an even bigger heart

On iPhone
Tiny Wings
Price: $0.99 / £0.59
Size: 71.8 MB
Get it now at the iTunes store:US/UK

We’re not big on the whole “learning” thing when it comes to iPhone gaming, y’know? We’re not looking for high-level strategy and deep, complex controls better suited to a PC keyboard. On the other hand, the adorable platformer Tiny Wings is so simple and intuitive that our hardcore gamer brains genuinely didn’t know what to do. Luckily, the game’s charm and colorful, dreamlike scenery hooked into us immediately, so we stuck around. And before long, we’d fallen in love with its one-button, physics-based bird-launching gameplay.

Tiny Wings is the story of an adorably thick-in-the-middle cartoon bird (whom we lovingly named Reginald for absolutely no reason) with predictably tiny wings. As such, rather than flapping and flying like most birds, he relies on gravity and momentum to launch his rotund little body into the clouds. Think of it as a constant series of ski jumps - touching your iPhone/iPod Touch screen causes Reginald to fold his wings and drop like a stone, gaining speed. On downward slopes, weighing him down like this is great and builds momentum, and if you lift your thumb to spread his wings just as the land curves upward again, he’ll slingshot skyward and glide off the incline into the sky. But if you flub the lift-off and keep him tucked into a ball too long, you’ll cut his speed severely. As he makes his way to the end of each island, he blasts off to the next. We had a constant rhythm of audible “Wheeee!” cheering as we hit sweet spots and sent Reginald soaring.

This is critical because Reginald is racing the sun – he can only fly during the day. With the sun dropping and Reginald’s bedtime looming – he hits the hay the moment nighttime starts – you’ll want to keep him moving. His main goal is simply to fly as far as possible before sundown, but it’s the side-goals that’ll keep you hooked on helping Reginald for a good long while.

Completing simple objectives, such as pulling off sweet “fever” jumps 5 times, or making it to later islands without picking up the blue speed-boost orbs, challenge you to try playing in different ways rather than just moseying along until dusk. Checking off missions boosts your overall multiplier, which makes it easier to hit higher scores and complete “Reach X-thousand Points” challenges. It’s basic, cyclical arcade stuff, but it works well within Tiny Wings’ adorable little world.

If Tiny Wings and Angry Birds are any indication, birds + $1 price tags seems to be the secret equation to App Store success. Perhaps we’ll see a flock of poultry-pushing platformers and avian action games in the near future, so get in before birds are as overplayed as zombies.

Then again, if they’re all this good, we might not complain.

Mar 3, 2011