little_socrates's Tiny Wings (iPhone) review

The best portable game in years.

Let's get this out of the way; even if you completely disagree about whether or not Tiny Wings is a good game, it costs a dollar on the App Store, so you probably ought to at least try it. And if you're anything like me, all the other games on your phone will seem more and more insignificant the more time you get to spend with this little gem.


In Tiny Wings, you control a small bird who pulls in his small wings to slide down hills at high speed, then lets them open again to experience the sensation of flight. Successful slides are marked as "great slides" and grant you point bonuses and getting three great slides in a row enters you into "fever mode," where all points you earn double. You earn points as you move forward, as you perform great slides, each time you reach the sky ("cloud touches") and as you collect golden coins. There are also blue "speed coins" that give you a nice boost.
The colorful visual style changes colors from island to island. 

Levels of the game are represented as different "islands;" each island has the same rough template, but changes layout and geography each day. The game ends when night falls; each time you jump from one island to the next, you move farther away from the point of sunset, buying you more time to earn points. When night falls, the game tallies up your points and gives you a breakdown of the number of cloud touches, time spent in fever mode, and other similar information before offering you the opportunity to either return to the main menu or play again.

That is, in general, the basic gameplay of Tiny Wings. Of course, the game is not just a high-score leaderboard (though it does come with Game Center support.) The game focuses on a series of Achievement-like "objectives" that appear in sets of three. These can be as simple as "reach Island 7" or as complicated as one of the more frustrating final objectives, "Make 20 cloud touches (without being in fever mode!)" After completing each set, you unlock a new "nest", which serves as a bonus multiplier while you play; these go from the initial x10 multiplier to the x30 multiplier in increments of 2 (x10, x12, x14, etc.) Until the last set of challenges, every set is completely reasonable, while getting the last set of challenges completed is a satisfying challenge that never feels unfair.

The reason this game survives is the intelligence of its design. All of the islands you fly through (well, I've only reached Island 9 so far, so I can't speak for Island 10) are very intelligently built, and are all very fun to play in all their configurations. Unlike the somewhat similar Unpleasant Horse, the game zooms out more the higher you get in the air, making it easier to plan your course as you move through the levels. The game uses a very nice one-touch interface, simply touching to pull in the bird's wings so that it can slide down a hill more easily or dive towards the earth to gain more momentum.

As for the aesthetic of the game, the visual style, while simple, is very nicely colorful and jumps off an iPhone screen nicely. The frame rate only skips when the phone receives messages, but not enough to affect gameplay. While you can play your own music while playing this game and there are no hoops to jump through, the music in the game is a wonderful marimba and piano track, using elements of what makes the WIi Sports and Banjo Kazooie themes so memorable while sounding incredibly unique. The bird makes cute sound effects when going into fever mode or jumping from island to island, but if you're listening to your own music, you'll probably turn these off.

The last thing I have to note about this game is that it launched with a handful of bugs. You couldn't play your own music, and while the game could handle receiving phone calls (pausing the game, and when you return, showing a "get ready!" prompt with an OK button,) text messages and Facebook notifications would crash the game and delete your current run. However, the developer was very quick to patch the game, adding the "get ready!" prompt for text messages and notifications, the ability to play your own music, reducing the already-unnoticable load times, and adding another set of challenges. I bring this up to note that if you're worried about this game working on your iPad 2 or other upcoming IOS hardware, the developer has shown a level of diligence usually rare in the mobile market.

Tiny Wings is eminently enjoyable; its design, aesthetic, and quality of high-score information is unmatched in the mobile market, and the length of an average game is only somewhere between 3-7 minutes, making it possible to pick up and play during a commercial break or continue playing for hours on end. I couldn't recommend this game more highly,.
17 Comments
Posted by FraggingRights

Love this game. I've spent more time playing Tiny WIngs than I have with most of my $60 AAA games. 


As Tiny would say, "YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO"
Posted by Tr4gic_H3r0

Agreed. I love this game! Especially the music. It fits so perfectly.

Posted by amomjc

Hah, yeah I remember sinking tons of hours into this just to get all those little level achievements. I never thought any were hard, just really remembering the difference between each island so you know when to push down and when too float.

Posted by Robiin

Great review for a great little game.

So much better than almost any iOS game I've played. Incredibly satisfying to see that cute bird do a great slide.

Posted by ShadowKnight508

A great game that will suck you in for hours as you try to race across each island and avoid the incoming darkness. This was the best game (next to Angry Birds) that I have purchased on my iPhone, and I really hope that they can make a sequel just as amazing (if they decide to or not).

My best was Island 6...messed up on two hills and the night caught up to me.

Online
Edited by Little_Socrates
@shadowknight508 said:

A great game that will suck you in for hours as you try to race across each island and avoid the incoming darkness. This was the best game (next to Angry Birds) that I have purchased on my iPhone, and I really hope that they can make a sequel just as amazing (if they decide to or not).My best was Island 6...messed up on two hills and the night caught up to me.

I'm actually thinking about doing a full review of Angry Birds, but I definitely like this game quite a bit more than it. I'm trying to get in contact with the developer to see if I can find anything out about what he's working on next, though he has mentioned "swimming" in an interview with a German website.
Posted by Dany

farthest i;ve been has been island 9. It is great that each island has its owns style to play but at around 7 they become random and harder.

Fun game to play whenever you have downtime.

Posted by vinsanityv22

I feel like calling this, "The best portable game in years" is insulting to DS titles like Okamiden and Monster Tale. Best mobile game, maybe? Or just come up with a different tagline, altogether? This may be wonderful, but don't go ignoring great portable games out there for DS (and maybe PSP).

Posted by Little_Socrates
@vinsanityv22 said:
I feel like calling this, "The best portable game in years" is insulting to DS titles like Okamiden and Monster Tale. Best mobile game, maybe? Or just come up with a different tagline, altogether? This may be wonderful, but don't go ignoring great portable games out there for DS (and maybe PSP).
I'm counting DS games as well. I've not nearly put this much time into a portable game since Trauma Center: Under the Knife. In those specific two examples, I can't say much about Monster Tale other than it looks good, but I'm certain I wouldn't like Okamiden very much at all based on my opinion of the original Okami and most people's reaction of "it's very much more of that with some new gameplay elements."

The biggest competitor I can think of is Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, and while that game is great, it's not made any better by the fact that it's portable; in fact, M&L would be significantly better on a console and were fully illustrated, although the pixelated style they use is still attractive.
Edited by Tireyo

Tiny Wings is a good iPhone/iPad game, but I wouldn't say that it's the best portable game in years. For only $1, one can really get the bang for their buck as the game can get addicting for a little while through it's charm. For me though, it doesn't really have that lasting appeal, no matter how much the islands change from day to day. It's easy to come back to, but I wind up playing another iPhone game before you know it, because the game is how you say "Short winded"! In other words, 3-7 minutes long for a round.  Bejeweled 2 + Blitz, Angry Birds & ABSeasons are pretty much responsible for getting my attention away from Tiny Wings, and I wind up playing those games more than I do Tiny Wings. I like something that takes me a little while to complete. Even though one can level up in the game to explore further islands, I feel like I ain't really going anywhere with it, because the game takes you back to the first island. It reminds me of Yoshi Touch and Go, as you are taken back to the start if you get hit or die. Tiny Wings is a good game, but it's not really that awesomely great.
@Little_Socrates said:

@vinsanityv22 said:

I feel like calling this, "The best portable game in years" is insulting to DS titles like Okamiden and Monster Tale. Best mobile game, maybe? Or just come up with a different tagline, altogether? This may be wonderful, but don't go ignoring great portable games out there for DS (and maybe PSP).
I'm counting DS games as well. I've not nearly put this much time into a portable game since Trauma Center: Under the Knife. In those specific two examples, I can't say much about Monster Tale other than it looks good, but I'm certain I wouldn't like Okamiden very much at all based on my opinion of the original Okami and most people's reaction of "it's very much more of that with some new gameplay elements."
The biggest competitor I can think of is Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, and while that game is great, it's not made any better by the fact that it's portable; in fact, M&L would be significantly better on a console and were fully illustrated, although the pixelated style they use is still attractive.

Counting DS games in my opinion is a mistake. I think that a more suitable competitor for Tiny Wings is Angry Birds Rio as it's for only portable apple products.

You have written a good review, but I disagree with you on some things, which includes the rating. You've put in some good time to write it, and it has paid off as it's in the spotlight!! I'm not saying "yes" or "no" on recommending, just so you know.
Posted by Little_Socrates
@Tireyo643: Thanks for the thoughtful response! I guess I've just not had the same response with Tiny Wings; if I'm playing anything else, I've inevitably wound up back at Tiny Wings. I will admit I'm a heavy score-chaser, but it's also just so much more aesthetically pleasing than any of the other IOS games I've played so far. Also, after a little correspondence with the developer in the last few days, I've learned that we're getting a pretty serious update in the next month or so.

While it might be more suitable to compare Angry Birds Rio, I've also found that I don't really WANT to play PSP or DS games because of the platforms they're on. The best games rarely embrace their mobility enough to make me prefer them to a console experience, and those that really use their mobility well (Dragon Quest IX, for example) rarely are the games I'm interested in playing. The fact that I also have to carry around another device to play them is a pretty sincere downgrade, making the IOS platform really shine for portable gaming, and the games are becoming increasingly polished and complex.

Lastly, I'd like to point out at this time that I'm not really a fan of Angry Birds in general. It's certainly not bad, but it really should not be outselling GameDevStory, Tiny Wings, or Plants vs. Zombies.
Edited by Tireyo
@Little_Socrates: I guess I'm in that sort of mood or providing thoughtful responses!! Probably where I haven't been out of the house for a week or so...... don't ask.

"Correction" - Any human contact with anyone in about a week or so. Stuck with parent's and dogs. = - |

I think that Plants vs. Zombies appeals more toward the hardcore, and not the casual audience. Probably why it's not selling as good as the other games.

I understand about what you are saying about the portable game systems such as DS and PSP. Comes down to personal preference really; same principle applies to Tiny Wings and all games.
Posted by Xsheps

You should try Chinatown Wars.

Posted by Little_Socrates
@xsheps said:
You should try Chinatown Wars.
I'll keep that recommendation in mind, thanks. Is the PSP version significantly better than the DS version? I largely prefer my DS as my PSP is kind of broken, but if that nub helps the play experience significantly I might try it there instead...
Posted by afrofools

I noticed this recently and thought it was pretty cool, I'll get it if I ever get an iPhone (which is becoming more likely each day).

Posted by MmaFanQc

maybe not the best, but obviously a great game without a doubt.

Edited by MajesticOverlord

I've spend hours playing this game. Everything from the stylish art work to the short sounds you make when you land a great slide is enjoyable. I'll admit playing Tiny wings and watching your bird fly into the air is a very similar experience to me as watching a cute kitten on Youtube. Once I start to play I find it very difficult to stop. 


In the end I personally think that the game is great, but nowhere near the best. The lack of variety really brings the game down. For a buck, or 7kr in Sweden it's a superb purchase and I would absolutely suggest that everyone gives it a try. 

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