The Game: Tiny Wings
The Device: iPhone 4
The Price: $0.99
The Basics: You are an adorable bird, whose tiny wings prevent you from flying. That’s not going to stop you from soaring through the air, though. Utilizing the steep hills and cliffs of the wilderness, you will slide down hills and time your launches just right to fly like your brethren. But how far can you fly before the sun goes down? That’s the game.
The Review: Virtually every game out there is about conflict. Maybe you’re shooting zombies. Maybe you’re launching birds at pigs. Maybe you’re building elaborate defenses to prevent enemies from invading your base. In 99% of the games you will play on your smartphone, it’s you against an enemy, life and death stakes. What’s so refreshing about Tiny Wings (in addition to the great gameplay, gorgeous graphics and beautiful musical score) is that there is no conflict at all. This is a thrilling game now because you’re killing things, but because it somehow manages to capture pure joy.
With its lack of conflict and emphasis on joyful whimsy, Tiny Wings feels like the mobile app equivalent of a Hayao Miyazaki film. It’s gentle. It’s sweet. It’s somehow uplifting. The game is simple, but it would be a mistake to make it complicated. Tiny Wings captures the joy of flight more than any complex simulator. In fact, it’s so simple that the game often feels more like a meditation than a game, a place where you can spend a few minutes getting lost in the clouds. Even when you lose, you don’t really lose: the sun goes down and your bird decides to go to sleep. No death, no taunting messages…just the end of your day.
That’s not to say Tiny Wings isn’t fun and addictive. It is. However, you probably won’t find yourself obsessing over high scores in the same way that you will with most games. Most likely, you’ll just be content to sit back and enjoy the ride, letting the game’s beautiful graphics and transcendent music transport you to another world. As video games continue to their struggle to be considered art, Tiny Wings is Exhibit A in the mobile app arena.
The Grade: A-