While Nintendo President Satoru Iwata attempted to devalue the mobile gaming market in his confrontational "content is king" speech at GDC 2011, Andreas Illiger's bite-sized iOS classic Tiny Wings was already soaring. The content on offer in this diminutive download might be wafer-thin, but its quality eclipses almost everything else in the handheld market.
There is little to explain about Tiny Wings, which will indubitably account for some of its huge success. You control a bird with petite wings and a dream to fly, and the one-button controls allow you to close your wings whenever pressing the screen.
Success is derived from carefully judging distance and momentum. Rolling hills make up the entirety of the game's islands, and hitting the former just right causes you to be propelled forward at impressive speed. Hit the slopes perfectly three times in succession and you activate fever mode, which causes a glittering trail to sparkle across the scenery in your wake.
There are no enemies or obstacles to contend with other than the clock. You start at dawn and when night hits your bird will immediately fall asleep and the game will end. Then you'll probably hit restart and give it another go until you either finish your commute or realise somebody else wants to use the bathroom. Whoops.
Things become somewhat more complex if you're serious about gunning for the high scores. Your total ticks upwards as you soar through the air, skim the clouds, and pick up coins on the ground, with the points racking up at an accelerated rate if you're in fever mode. An upgradable nest will also boost a score multiplier in steps of two by accomplishing sets of three challenges. The most memorable one of these (so far, at least - the first update for the game included Game Center support and added a new nest) features you having to get to the fifth island with the iDevice turned upside-down.
The colour schemes of the islands are also rejuvenated on a daily basis, meaning there's always a creeping desire to push forwards and see what the next island looks like, even if you've been playing every day for the last month.
One of the more interesting ways the iOS market operates is by word of mouth. I hadn't heard of Tiny Wings until a colleague told me about it one morning, and before lunch it had spread across the entire office. The game's effect on Twitter - and without spamming your feed from within the app, I might add - and other social networks was sweeping and immediate, and its high position in the App Store charts is quite simply because it's one of the best games released this year.
VideoGamer.com Score8 Score out of 10
- Has an active community
- The right balance of simplicity and depth
- Not for those uninterested in high scores