In a recent interview with IGN, Gameloft's Michel Guillemot dismissed the common – and totally valid – notion that Gameloft is a cynical manufacturer of copycat games. “There is maybe one new idea a year," he said.
Whether or not you agree with that figure, it's certainly true that there are more games than ideas, and even the games that define their particular gameplay mechanics aren't necessarily the ones that first exhibit them. Crush the Castle came before Angry Birds; PapiJump came before Doodle Jump.
And before Tiny Wings – the iPhone gaming sensation of the week – there was Wavespark, an experimental indie title for PC and Mac from developer NMcCoy, who created the game last year as part of a productivity-spurring game-a-week initiative.
In his description for Wavespark NMcCoy identifies his own influences: “Inspirational sources include Excite Truck and Sonic the Hedgehog, both of which have a joyful “use your surroundings to go fast” aspect to them.”
The resemblance between Wavespark and Tiny Wings is unmistakeable. Both involve using 'one button' to manipulate gravity in such a way that a flying sprite falls into concave parts of the landscape, accelerating down one side and up out of the other. The aim of both games is to get as far as you can before running out of momentum.
But, as Trainyard creator Matt Rix notes on Twitter (this is where we found out about it), the fact that Tiny Wings seems to be inspired by Wavespark shouldn't necessarily detract from its appeal. “Anyone who calls games like Angry Birds and Tiny Wings "clones" has no respect for execution.”