EXTRA CREDIT Critical Play: Theme Only Games: Temple Run vs. Tiny Wings

I chose to compare and contrast two games from the “Racing” genre which are both near and dear to my childhood heart: Temple Run and Tiny Wings. At first, I couldn’t even see how these games were at all in the same genre, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense that they were in fact just variations on a theme (har har). I will first explain and analyze them each in turn, and then compare how their theme changes the experience of the racing game.

Game #1: Temple Run

Creator: Imangi

Platform: iPhone/iPad/Android

Temple Run is an endless runner game in which you are being chased by a gorilla and must navigate a ruined jungle temple to escape him. Your available controls are swipe left/right to turn,  swipe up/down to jump/duck, tilt to move around the path to collect coins or traverse thinner paths, and double tap to use abilities. Your player character never stops running, and you must use your controls to avoid obstacles and follow the path as he slowly increases in speed until you crash or die. The game provides immense amounts of endless sensation fun because you need very quick reflexes and good timing to not die as the game goes on. The theme of the game also makes it more intense because you are being chased by either one gorilla or several that you can see following you throughout the game. These chasers give immediacy and adrenaline to the game and make it all the more pertinent that you escape them by running away.

Game #2: Tiny Wings

Creator: Andreas Illiger

Platform: iPhone/iPad

Tiny Wings is an endless “flying” game in which you control a bird whose wings are too small to fly. In order to move your bird character, you press on the screen to make him dive, sliding down one hill and up the next to give him lift. By timing your presses and releases, you can make the bird fly faster and further. The game is endless, and the goal of the game is to fly as far as possible before nightfall. You can extend the length of the day by reaching the next checkpoint island, so by flying well, you can continue the game forever. However, if you fly too slowly, you will come to a stop and be unable to fly or fall asleep at dusk. This game also provides sensation fun because timing the presses and releases is a skill that can be honed with practice and improved over time. There are also powerup bubbles that you can collect at opportune times to give you a boost. What I love most about this game, however, is its theme; the game creators designed the game with a very peaceful, painterly style of animation that includes procedurally animated trees and islands as well as adorable bird and flying animations. Losing the game doesn’t even feel like much of a loss, since the bird simply goes to sleep. Accompanied by serene music and adorable sound effects, this game gives the player a very peaceful sense of calm even during the most difficult sections.

As you can see, although these games are similar in mechanic and style of play, the theme dramatically impacts the experience the player has while playing the game. In Temple Run, the scary demon gorillas and ruinous scene along with dramatic music make for a stressful and exciting experience, while in Tiny Wings the calming music and soft animation style induces a happy and soothing experience.

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