Tiny Tao is a debut app from UI Magic that features four mini-games starring the game’s namesake Tiny Tao, a Chibi-like character who appears in three of the games.
As a collective whole, the mini-games utilize the iPhone and iPod touch accelerometer and touch based controls to give users a variation of games. Individually, the games consist of Dodging Balls, Sleeping Dragon, Falling Lanterns, and Red Orbit, all of which are simplistic enough in design that dynamic game play should be expected to support the simplicity.
The concept of four different games in one, all designed to be replayed for highest score achievement, is like discovering a special at Starbucks where you get a free muffin with your latte — it's added value. Except that I’d prefer the muffin to these games any day of the week. You can choose any of the four games from the main menu, but before playing the games it’s imperative that the help button be checked out first. Simplistic as the games in Tiny Tao are, without the instructions most users would be clueless.
A brief explanation of the games is really all that’s required. In the dodge ball game you simply use tilt to keep Tiny Tao from being hit by the bouncing balls. Sleeping Dragon is a game of balance where you attempt to keep a board balanced on a dragon’s head by tapping lighted lanterns to drop boxes on either side of the board. Red Orbit is best described by comparing it to the little wooden mazes that have a small BB inside and you tilt the box around to move the ball, except that you have to keep the ball away from all the other moving dots. Lastly, Falling Lanterns features sets of lanterns with figures or shapes on them falling from the sky. You can break the lanterns by drawing the same images on the screen as are on the lanterns.
If you enjoy simplistic games that make little sense, then you may find value in Tiny Tao. The best feature of Tiny Tao is the automatic recording of high scores, which is the only point to replaying the games. However, there is no onscreen display of the high score during game play, so you don’t know if you’re coming close to beating the score or not.
There aren’t any particular strengths to any of the games, but if I had to pick a favorite, it would be the falling lanterns. Yet, no matter how many times I tried to draw the figure 8, my rendering was never once deemed successful. I also don’t know how many lanterns you can miss before the game ends, as it just seems to end randomly.
Tiny Tao gets an “A” for effort because of combining cute graphics and sound effects and coupling four different style games into one app, but the delivery falls slightly short of providing solidly addicting and entertaining game play. Nonetheless, I would recommend keeping an eye out for a price drop and reconsidering if it goes half price. After all, with Tiny Tao you have a one-in-four chance of finding a game you like.