How fickle we are. No sooner had we pledged lifelong allegiance to Angry Birds than another avian app landed in the iTunes Store and wrested our attention away. We've gone hands-on with the new app on the block, Tiny Wings, to see if it's any cop. It's available now for 59p (iTunes link), and runs on the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.
Wing and a prayer
Tiny Wings may revolve around the same kind of animal as Angry Birds, but that's where the similarities end -- Tiny Wings is an entirely different game to Rovio's smash-hit title. Developed by Andreas Illiger, Tiny Wings' protagonist is a small blue bird who's always dreamed of flying but has, er, tiny wings.
This tiny bird's world is full of hills that you can use as impromptu ramps, propelling the critter into the air. The aim is to keep the bird flying for as long and as far as possible before the sun goes down.
When night comes, it's game over and you have to start again, but you can avoid this by moving across the landscape as quickly as possible. Every time you complete an island -- a stretch of hills -- you'll be propelled into the sky, and land among a new set of hills. Completing an island will push the sun further back into the sky, giving the very cool impression that you're racing across time zones.
Let the birdies hit the floor
Like all the best games, Tiny Wings tests your timing. When you hold your finger on the touchscreen of your chosen portable Apple device, the bird stops flapping its tiny wings and drops like a stone. The secret is to drop onto the downward slope of each hill to gather momentum, and lift your finger off the screen when you're on the upward slope, propelling your bird into the stratosphere. You then repeat this, with every accurate drop firing you further and faster.
That's about all there is to Tiny Wings. It will take you a while to learn the physics of the game, so, if you're after a quick fix, you'll find games like Angry Birds require less mental investment. But, whereas games like Angry Birds and Doodle Jump can at times feel random, unfair and frustrating, Tiny Wings never does. Also, once you've got to grips with the momentum-gathering technique, flying through the hilly landscape feels really exhilarating.
The game keeps you focused in a number of ways. Firstly, you'll always be looking for the next little valley to drop down into. You'll also constantly be checking the little meter in the corner that tells you how long you have until nightfall. Incorrectly timing a drop will often stop your bird almost dead, and we found that trying to build up momentum after a series of mistakes had us so on edge that we nearly fell off our seats. Finally, this game is addictive -- the game-over screen will probably only show for a split second before you hit the 'new game' icon.
The game's graphics are fairly adorable, although, if you're of a Grinch-like persuasion, you might find the watercolour visuals and twee sound effects too saccharine. Despite seemingly not having a name, the bird you control is fairly endearing -- we like the way he opens his beak in astonishment every time he's thrust into the air.
Our one concern is that, once you've mastered the main technique of the game, there's not much more to do than repeatedly prove it. You can earn a few achievements and upgrade your nest, by collecting 200 coins, or doing five big jumps in sequence on the third island, and so on. But there's not much depth to the game beyond that. Angry Birds, Peggle and Infinity Blade have a more complex structure to them -- their levels, challenges and unlockable extras keep you coming back.
Still, Tiny Wings is theoretically only a few updates away from something similar. We'll be interested to see how the game grows in the future.
Tiny Wings is a rather adorable little iOS game that's well worth shelling out a few pence for. It's truly satisfying once you get your head around it, and it's well presented throughout. We think it's everything mobile gaming should be.
Edited by Charles Kloet