The fact that wings are designed for flight, and all birds have wings, but not all birds can fly seems like one of those ancient logic tests about lying Cretans.

Certainly, for the star of App Store phenomenon Tiny Wings, powered flight is more an aspiration than a reality thanks to his unaerodynamic shape and minute appendages.

Up, up and away

So it's a good thing that you have gravity and momentum on your side. Tiny Wings's gameplay takes place in horizontally scrolling levels with undulating landscapes, and the goal is you get Tiny to travel as far possible from left to right.

Tapping at any time during flight will retract those wings, bringing Tiny crashing to the ground. But if you retract them at just the right point you'll drop Tiny onto the downwards slope of a hill, hence generating the speed to take off again.

In this way, Tiny Wings becomes a rhythm-action type affair, as you tap and lift to get Tiny into the air and then scan the ground to see what opportunities you have to bounce him back into the air again before gravity eventually grounds him at a random point.

Indeed, getting perfect landings and slides through the valleys is key. Get three in a row and you'll be in Fever mode, which gives you double points.

Helping you along the way are blue speed-ups, which are generally found at the bottom of valleys, while level progress occurs as you travel through different islands, each of which has its own colour scheme and characteristics in terms of the patterns and shapes of the hills.

Nighty, nighty

The end of each game is controlled by a day-night cycle.

You start the game in the morning, but if you're not fast enough across the terrain the sun begans to set and shadows fall. A small meter in the bottom-left of the screen lets you know how late it is, and when the screen finally goes dark it's time for Tiny to stop, take a nap, and for you to attempt to beat your high score again.

In terms of achievements and scores, you get additional points for collecting gold coins, pulling off perfect slides through a valley, and making it into the clouds.

These are combined with the distance you travel to generate your high score, with leaderboards organised via OpenFeint. You're also challenged to perform actions such as collecting a certain amount of coins or doing perfect slides, which cleared in groups of three give you permanent score multipliers, as well as customising Tiny's nest.

Gimme more

Still, for all its easy style, satisfying gameplay, and just-one-more-go-ability, Tiny Wings requires initial persistence to get the hang of its rhythmic gameplay. Thankfully, the first island has a neat on-screen hint system to get you underway.

More pointedly, as a game that relies on high scores for its replayability it's currently something of a one-trick bird, albeit it a beautifully presented one.

Game Center support and more OpenFeint leaderboards are promised in future, but it will be interesting to see if new modes or gameplay variations can be conjured up. Certainly, its structure means developer Andreas Illiger won't just be able to take the usual route of adding dozens of levels.

But that's a concern for the future. In the present, Tiny Wings is proof that developers can still come out of nowhere and make incredibly playable games that set the charts alight.

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