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Quick Look: Tiny Wings for iPhone

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Unlike in many other side-scrolling games on the App Store, some of the best moments in Tiny Wings come when you’re not doing anything at all. It’s true that you’ll spend most of the game hill surfing left to right in an effort to outrun the night, but the most rewarding bits of the game are when you find yourself soaring through the air, reaping the rewards of your speed. You’ll start out on a hill, tap-and-hold on the screen to pull into a dive, and then release as you start to gain altitude. It isn’t flying per se – it’s “falling with style” – but as you end up launching yourself high enough to clip the clouds, it may as well be.

There’s a sense of joy in motion that Tiny Wings is able to convey which few other games are able to capture. Part of this is due to the lovely animation and the unflinching cuteness of your tiny bird, but the in-game camera also plays a very big role, zooming out as you pick up speed and showing you just how quickly you’re zipping across the hills.

The gameplay takes skill to master: light touch, quick reflexes, and a good sense of rhythm will take you a long way towards a high score. However, unlike other score-based, one-tap games of its ilk, Tiny Wings rarely ever feels manic. Jetpack Joyride and Canabalt represent reflex-based gaming at its best, but Tiny Wings takes the best elements of rhythm and racing games, makes them light and feathery, and serves them up in a package that codifies flight as freedom. It’s a beautiful, almost liberating iPhone gaming experience, and well worth the $0.99 purchase price.

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