Despite its many ups and downs, ‘Tiny Wings’ is ‘pure joy’

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Only a few games I’ve played on iOS have really controlled well, and even fewer of those have actually been good games on top of that. “Tiny Wings” does both, and it’s an excellent case study in how to make an iOS game really sing.

In “Tiny Wings” you control a bird who approaches flying in a radical and avant-garde style. Whereas most birds would simply flap their wings a little here, this bird uses momentum and gliding. By default, the bird’s wings will be open, and it will fall relatively slowly and stay in the air. However, if you touch the screen, the bird will hold its wings in and fall much faster without being able to gain much height at all.

The idea is that the bird accelerates by falling down on slopes, and then uses its speed to fly upward. This requires careful timing and surprisingly nuanced interaction with the randomly generated hills that make up the world of “Tiny Wings.”

The default mode of the game, Day Trip, is an arcade-style game with the goal of getting the high score. Points can be earned by pulling off a jump from a hill, going really fast and collecting the coins scattered throughout a level. Besides the yellow coins, there are glowing blue coins that give you a speed boost.

Simple as it is, this would probably be enough for me — just because the actual feeling of movement is so perfect. There’s a bit more to the strategy, though. Your score is multiplied by what nest your bird sleeps in. The better the nest, the better the points.

You get new nests by completing sets of goals the game gives you. Goals are things like collecting 200 yellow coins; getting to the fifth island without using a speed boost item; or holding the game upside down and playing to the fifth island. These goals really spice up the game, giving you concrete objectives to work toward that reshape how you play the game. They inject variety into the game and give you a sense of progress.

The game offers another mode of play called Flight School. This is essentially a race against other birds. Instead of having a scoring method, this one is purely about speed.

Unlike Day Trip’s randomly generated levels, Flight School has a set of fixed levels to advance through. These add flowers the birds bounce off like trampolines and water that greatly slows down the speed of the birds as they slide through it.

Overall, the best thing about this game is how much pure joy I get from just the movement of this game. It’s hard to describe the feeling of friction and release. The whole aesthetic of the game is welcoming and adorable, without being overly saccharine. I really enjoyed this game, one of the better iOS games I’ve played.

Developed by Andreas Illiger, “Tiny Wings” is a game for Apple iOS devices, such as iPod Touch, iPad and iPhone. It may be downloaded for $2.99 from the iTunes store (ubne.ws/1cb9OyQ).

Noah Hinz is an art and game design enthusiast living in Walla Walla. Contact him with questions, game and playing suggestions or anything else related to games at noahhinz@gmail.com.

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