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The Great iOS Game Search: Tiny Wings

I am simply convinced that Apple’s iOS platform has a lot of potential for great gaming experiences. The powerful hardware, responsive touchscreens, and gorgeous displays of the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch are brimming with possibility. Unfortunately, the App Store is filled with shovelware and games that don’t do the OS justice. As such, I have decided to go on a search to find those digital diamonds in the rough that are not only great games, but are designed for the platform as well. 

Tiny Wings

Developer: Andreas Illiger

Current Price: $0.99

Platforms: iPhone/iPod Touch

I firmly believe that there is a place for games on iOS that attempt to challenge dedicated handhelds like the PSP and DS in terms of depth and quality. Why not aim for such lofty goals, after all?

Even I must admit, however, that the games that most often feel “right” for the platform, those that capture my attention and bring a smile to my face and leave me thinking to myself “Yes, this is what mobile gaming is all about” are those games that embrace the simplicity of the device. They find ways to build mechanics around minimalism while including enough depth to retain challenge and ensure practice is needed to master the game.

These games often require only one input, touching, tapping, or holding the screen at a certain time, but can have an addictive quality than can rival their more complex console brethren. They come in bite sizes with prices to match, costing as little as a dollar and are perfectly suited to gaming on a mobile device, able to give you a satisfying experience in just minutes.

They may be small, they may be disposable, but the best of the iOS crop is densely packed with creativity. It’s simply delightful to see how much experimentation is being done with graphics and gameplay in this sector and how much success it is bringing some developers. I’ve felt on more than one occasion that more creative thought has been put into a game I bought for $0.99 and thought would be a throwaway experience than a game I bought for $60 in a retail store.

Tiny Wings is one of these delightful little surprises. I bought it on a whim, having never heard of it before, after a writer I follow on Twitter recommended it. I didn’t even know what to expect, but for $0.99 I took the gamble and bought it sight unseen. When was the last time you did that with a console game?

This game is joy encapsulated. I don’t mean to oversell it or indicate it’s the best game ever made, I simply mean that playing this game will almost certainly make you happy. It’s a refreshing and cheerful change from the gritty, violent norm.

You play as an unfortunately underdeveloped bird with wings far too small for his body. You’ve always dreamed of flying, though. The player helps this adorable creature live his dream, if only momentarily, through a charming little platforming game that has you sliding up and down hills to gain momentum and soar into the skies to touch the clouds. 

Holding your finger on the screen closes your wings and makes you gain speed. Letting go opens them and catches air. By holding your finger on the screen going down hills and releasing it at just the right time when going back up, you can quickly gain speed and rapidly begin zooming over the colorful landscape. Touching the clouds, collecting coins scattered in the valleys, and doing a “great slide” with a perfect press and release of the screen all get you points. As you go, you complete simple objectives, get better nests to sleep in, and try to beat your high score.

The whole affair is simply adorable. The cute animations of the little bird as he soars through the air are bound to have you saying “aww”. The cheerful sounds he emits as he reaches for the skies will have you chuckling and eager to do your best to help the little guy live his dream. If you don’t have a big goofy smile on your face the first time you hear him shout “Woohoo!” as he soars the skies, then you’re just not human. The music will leave you relaxed and dreamlike. The graphics are surreal and pleasing to the eye, using a procedurally generated system that means you’ll never see quite the same landscape pattern two days in a row, but it’s always guaranteed to look straight out of a mesmerizing children’s storybook.

I love a deep game and I cherish the rare Infinity Blade that successfully pushes the limits of the iOS platform, but sometimes it’s good to embrace minimalism and find a little gem like this that can bring a smile to your face for fifteen minutes every day for less than the price of a pack of gum. This, truly, is the future of mobile gaming. We have a lot to look forward to.

Verdict: iOS Gem

iOS Gem - An “iOS Gem” represents the pinnacle of gaming on Apple’s platform. These games find that perfect balance between simplicity and depth. They navigate the treacherous waters of touchscreen control and find an elegant solution. They essentially feel right at home on iOS in every way. Most importantly, they’re really fun too.

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