The endless running game genre has become increasingly popular on smartphones in the last few years. The most popular entry by far – Jetpack Joyride – actually mixes flying with running, and to great effect. But suppose you want a pure endless flying game without all that fancy footwork? Then Nokia and Chillingo’s Tiny Plane is the only game in town.
Created by tiny Canadian developer PowPow Games (who also made Dream Track Nation), Tiny Plane can’t compare to Jetpack Joyride’s sheer scope and abundance of personality. But it packs a certain indie charm and some challenging gameplay that still make it worth a look.
Tiny Plane lacks a cute story (or any story), but the premise is adorable enough. You don’t just fly an airplane in this game – a dog sits at the plane’s controls.
Instead of flying for distance, you’re flying for score here, but they’re essentially the same thing. Items don’t even affect your score, oddly enough. The score just increases the farther you fly along. They might as well call it distance instead of score since nothing else affects it.
Since this is an endless flyer, the game handles acceleration automatically. Players just need to worry about steering. The game lacks a tutorial or instructions of any sort, so you’ll probably fumble around a bit as you learn the controls. Touching the left side of the screen points the plane’s nose up, while the right side points the nose down. You can also reverse the directions in the options screen.
Tiny Plane is a challenging game, one reason being fuel management. As the plane flies around, its fuel meter constantly ticks down. Let it run out and you’ll plummet to the ground, probably crashing. Landing on a runway refuels the plane. Runways are abundant and you can’t crash into them – no matter how fast you touch down, you’ll land and begin to refuel safely. Be sure to take off before reaching the end of the runway though, or you’ll crash into the landscape.
Other than crashing, Tiny Plane pilots will face three primary hazards. An exclamation point at the edge of the screen warns of their impending arrival.
The game must take place near Seattle because storm clouds pop up most frequently. Fly into one or even NEAR it and it will sap coins from you. That’s right, this game actually steals coins from players. You could lose 30 coins from a cloud, which hurts because coins are slow to come by. The fact that the surrounding radius of a cloud drains coins as well just makes things worse. You’ll learn to avoid them for the most part, but sometimes it can’t be helped.
Next up, floating mines will destroy your plane if touched. Because individual mines are small, they usually don’t post too much of a threat.
Rockets only appear on Normal and Hardcore difficulties and prove the deadliest threat. They show up behind your plane instead of from the front. The shield power-up offers no protection against rockets (boo) and they home in on your plane (double boo), so they almost always spell death. They CAN be dodged if your plane is going fast enough and you move at just the right time though.
Pilots can collect several items as they soar through the skies, and multiple items will affect the plane concurrently. Not all are helpful though…
- Gas: Rather than refilling your gas tank, this collectible stops it from depleting for a short time. It lets you fly a bit higher instead of hovering near the runways so much.
- Weight: A power-down that drags you down toward the ground, possibly causing a crash.
- Balloon: The opposite of a weight, the balloon pulls you up. Probably a bit less dangerous but still not good.
- Magnet: Everyone loves a coin magnet. The downside is that coins are so scarce that a magnet will often run out before you can even collect any coins with it. Comparatively, Jetpack Joyride always makes a batch of coins appear when the player collects a vehicle, so you never feel like the vehicle is wasted.
- Shield: Puts a shield on front of the plane that will protect it from exactly one mine. Run into two mines and you’re still toast. I really wish the game would indicate when magnets and shields are about to run out.
- Coin Bubble: This uncommon item causes a field of coins to appear in place of the usual hazards. Get lucky enough to combine it with a magnet and you’ll rake in the cha-ching.
- Plane change: On Normal and Hard difficulties, you can temporarily switch to a different plane with this item. It’s not bad early on but eventually you’ll want to stick with your unlocked plane.
Coins and planes
As with endless running games, the other goal besides reaching greater distances is to collect as many coins as you can. The only thing to spend them on is planes. There are 10 different planes to buy, each with a different effect such as immunity to weights or lower fuel consumption. The only ones you should actually buy, however are the plane that doubles coins and the one that causes missiles not to appear. Those two will prove most useful Achievement-wise.
A few more complaints:
- Tiny Plane has some pretty parallax backgrounds, but with only one unchanging background, that beauty quickly wears thin. The game badly needs more backgrounds or at least different palettes for the background.
- Unless your plane is moving at high speeds, the camera is zoomed in far too close. The combination of slow steering and claustrophobic view make it way too easy to miss coins and items.
- When you buy a plane, the game returns to the main menu instead of providing visual confirmation of the purchase. That’s some rough UI work there.
- The Windows Phone version lacks the iOS game’s online multiplayer mode.
Most of the Achievements are pretty reasonable once you get the hang of the game. The grindiest one requires players to accumulate 40,000 gold. Given how scarce gold can be (not to mention those thunderstorms), it will take several hours (and the Double Coin plane) to gather 40K.
The hardest and most unpleasant Achievement is undoubtedly ’10,000 Points.’ To actually reach that distance/points goal, you can either play on Kids or Normal difficulty. The Kids route is safer but excruciatingly slow – it will take over an hour of careful flying to get. Planes fly much faster in Normal mode, but then you have missiles to contend with. Since missiles are usually undodgable, you’d need to buy the expensive No Missiles plane before trying to reach 10K.
Virtually all Nokia published Xbox games have a two dollar markup over their iOS versions, which is usually understandable given the smaller user base of Windows Phone. But Tiny Plane just doesn't have that much content. It should really cost a dollar like the iOS game, especially given this version's missing multiplayer.
Pricing aside, players who have knocked out Jetpack Joyride and Gravity Guy 2 might want to give this flyer a chance. It’s a fun game once you look past the rough edges.
Tiny Plane – Nokia Exclusive – Windows Phone 7 or 8 – MB - $2.99 – Store Link