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Woody Woodpecker

For:   Also on: iPhoneiPad
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Beak air fall

Product: Woody Woodpecker | Developer: Tintash | Publisher: Chillingo | Format: iPhone | Genre: Casual, Racing | Players: 1-2 | File size: 54.3MB | Version: Europe | App version: 1.0
 
Woody Woodpecker iPhone, thumbnail 1
Despite the enormous success of Andreas Illiger's Tiny Wings, there haven't been many prominent clones of it. The central gameplay mechanic is so distinctive that it's impossible for a developer to incorporate it into another game without looking like a brazen thief.

This hasn't discouraged the usual rabble of rogue idea-borrowers, but Chillingo is the first mainstream publisher to step forward with a game that plays in a way that's unmistakeably similar to Tiny Wings.

That shouldn't necessarily put you off. Woody Woodpecker may have obvious source material, but it also adds a substantial amount of other – also borrowed – source material to create a worthwhile hybrid.

Wings of flyer

For the uninitiated, the goal in both Tiny Wings and Woody Woodpecker is to propel a flightless bird over an undulating landscape.

Your only input is to press the screen to increase the weight of your bird. If you time your screen-presses properly, your bird will descend heavily into bowl-shaped valleys and then launch out of them and arc satisfyingly through the air.

Whereas Tiny Wings and its low-rent clones involve outrunning an approaching evil force of some kind, Woody Woodpecker is a cartoon racing game along the lines of Mario Kart.

Instead of getting as far as you can you just have to get as far as the finishing line. Rather than there being a single invisible force compelling you forwards there are several opponents to catch up with, overtake, stay ahead of, and pummel with weapons.

Two in the bush

You can choose between five characters, including Winnie Woodpecker (titter!), Woody Woodpecker (fnarr!), and Chilly Willy (whose name is similarly evocative of the male member). Each character has its own Speed, Acceleration, and Handling levels, and each has its own weapon, including dynamite, rockets, and perfume.

During races there are icons for deploying your weapon and gaining a momentary nitro-style speed-boost. These recharge automatically every 20 seconds or so.

There are 30 tracks across three environments: Golf Course, Arctic, and Circus. These are subtly different, in that there are bunkers that slow you down and storm clouds that hurl lightning at you in the Golf Course and caves with ceilings that you crash into in the Arctic, but the only really significant difference between the courses is the distribution of their hills and valleys.

This is where Woody Woodpecker eventually comes unstuck. At first, using gravity and momentum to race rather than to get as far as you can is novel and fun. But races are over in about a minute, and once you master the timing of your descents and ascents it all gets very repetitive.

Crestfallen

To resolve this developer Tintash could have used power-ups, branching courses, or some other element to add strategic depth to the races, but instead it simply varies the landscapes so that there are stretches of momentum-sapping steep slopes, height-slaughtering shallow slopes, and fun-annihilating obstacles in the air.

The problem with this approach is that you can't really avoid the slow parts and the fast parts, and the game arbitrarily slows you down or brings you to a halt every so often through no fault of your own. You can't see ahead, since the action is viewed side-on, and if you go too high you can't see what's beneath you.

If you pull off a particularly brilliant jump and decide to take advantage of the height this buys you by deploying your rocket boost, you do so at the expense of what little control you had.

Tintash increases the difficulty as the game goes on by making the tracks more irregular and thus harder to gain momentum on, but since you'll still generally place without too much effort all this really achieves is to make the game progressively less enjoyable.

Britain's got talon

You can of course memorise each track so as to avoid unpleasant surprises and conduct the race in the optimal way, but the opposition isn't challenging enough to force you to play like this in single-player mode, so you won't.

There's a two-player multiplayer mode over Game Center, and this works pretty seamlessly, pairing you up with another player for a quick race whenever you feel like it. If any part of Woody Woodpecker is likely to encourage you to memorise tracks and think seriously about the best way to race on them it's this mode, but the random one-off nature of these encounters makes for a fairly shallow experience.

Woody Woodpecker is fun for the first few minutes. Pulling off a perfect jump is as belly-crampingly satisfying in this as it is in Tiny Wings, and the fact that you're racing rather than fleeing is an interesting twist.

But the power-ups, tracks, and multiplayer mode are all too perfunctory, the races are too short, and the game is too easy to hold your attention for long.

 
Woody Woodpecker
Reviewer photo
Rob Hearn | 16 January 2012
Woody Woodpecker combines the gameplay of Tiny Wings and Mario Kart to fairly good effect, but perfunctory execution clips its feathers
 
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