If you’ve never tried pushing a chicken down a hill, Tiny Wings is the game that just might make you want to. Is it a fat bird with normal size wings, or a normal size bird with tiny wings? It doesn’t really matter, any more than it matters why you need to fly perpetually over a series of islands (think of these as levels) to escape nightfall. But there it is – your podgy-looking, wide-eyed bird must use this app’s series of hillocks to enhance the flying skills of his ill-proportioned wings.
Along with the likes of Canabalt, Tiny Wings is a perpetual scroller. You start from your hilltop nest at daybreak and fall down a hill putting a finger on the screen to tuck your wings in and increase momentum. Releasing your finger at the valley’s lowest point, the eponymous limbs flutter into motion and you shoot up the next hill, off the crest into glorious flight. In theory.
In practice, Tiny Wings takes some considerable skill, judgement and concentration. Landing your bird just after the hilltop and lifting your finger as you hit the valley floor quickly becomes an obsession. And as your bird achieves greater flight and travels through more islands, carried along by the ludicrously happy soundtrack, it quickly turns to addiction.
Partly, the reward is in constant success. You expect to beat your previous high score each time you set out afresh from your nest. You hope to get further before the orange dusk sun looms large on your screen, rapidly turning to night and ending your journey. And you succeed. There are coins to be collected that boost flight, challenges that win you nests (get to a certain island without the use of coins, say, or reach a pre-ordained score).
There’s very little depth to Tiny Wings, though, and that’s to its credit. Many developers wouldn’t have been able to resist adding extra layers of gameplay. Yet first-time dev Andreas Illiger has struck the right balance. It’s richer and more rewarding than Canabalt, but so casual that it doesn’t matter that you have to start again after a phone call comes in. If there was a definition of the perfect game app, surely that’d almost cover it.