Sawbuck Gamer

Tiny Wings

Reasonable Birds

Tiny Wings gets an upgrade, but not an evolutionary one.

By Drew Toal • July 20, 2012

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap ($10 or less) game.

In the 1991 Berkeley Breathed book A Wish For Wings That Work, a penguin named Opus deals with depression fueled by his inability to fly. He feels somehow inadequate, less of a bird. He asks Santa for a good pair of flying wings, but Father Christmas crashes into a lake en route. Although he can’t fly, Opus is a terrific swimmer. He rescues that old bearded drunk in no time, and simultaneously discovers his own worth. Santa works in mysterious ways.

The hero of Andreas Illiger’s breakout 2011 game Tiny Wings is similarly challenged. Rather than just mope around about it, though, this bird slides along colorful slopes, building momentum and launching itself into the sky (if only for a short time), racing the sun. It’s aspirational. A simple, beautiful game.

There was loose talk in recent days of a true sequel, but Tiny Wings was instead given a free update. The new version introduces “flight school,” where baby birds race each other toward their mother’s nest and a reward of fish. Fifteen new levels, night flying, and some other minor tweaks expand on the original game, but basically it’s the same experience. Racing other birds—instead of the sun’s inexorable advance—sounds more exciting than it is. The nature of Tiny Wings propulsion is spending half your time on the ground, and half in the air. You don’t even see your competitors most of the time; either you’re catapulting yourself over them or vice versa. But why mess with success? Instead of wishing for a completely new game, maybe we should just learn to (re)appreciate the one we have.

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