My favorite game this week is a 99 cent iPhone game. Believe it or not, it’s not nearly as complex as Angry Birds. There is only one thing the player can do: stop flapping. See, in Tiny Wings, you’re a bird with little wings, unable to fly far without the help of constant slopes, which the player is tasked to utilize to the best of his ability by landing on them just perfectly. The object is to fly far. That’s pretty much it. The farther you fly, the greater your score. (Though, there are some other objectives you’re presented with that are remarkably varied and fun to attempt. They provide a great diversion when high-score chasing get old, and come with the added benefit of increasing your score multiplier.)
But like the best games, there’s something intangibly satisfying about helping this poor bird get as far as he can. The feeling of hitting the slope just right and launching this helpless bird into the air, the reward of discovering new islands, and the heady satisfaction of reaching the clouds all present a sort of unexplainable resonance. Meanwhile, the aesthetic is perfect: whimsical, colorful backgrounds and a charming soundtrack accompany the flight of a likable, unassuming bird.
The whole thing reads like a metaphor for old-school “try, try again” hopefulness. It’s nothing super-deep, but when we’re stuck in line or need a quick break, it’s the perfect theme to engage in, and seems a heck of a lot more rewarding than investing in the plight of spiteful birds.