App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
User Interface Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
DATA WING is a cyberpunk/vaporwave-inspired game where you play as a data delivery entity within a computer. On its face, it might look like a top-down racer, and–at certain points–it is. More than that though, DATA WING is an ultra-stylish experience that does everything it can to push the limits of its aesthetic, mechanics, and structure to really interesting, original, and flat-out cool places. Oh, and it's also worth mentioning that this fantastic experience is 100% free (i.e. no ads or in-app purchases).
In DATA WING, you are put in control of a squirrelly, triangular ship that you must steer through some minimal, line-drawn environments. Your goal when doing this changes from level to level, and can be anything from simply finishing a lap to finding a series of keys to open your way to the next level.
Controlling your ship in DATA WING is as simple as tapping either side of the screen to rotate your vehicle and tapping both sides to brake (your ship accelerates completely on its own). What complicates this a bit is the fact that your thrusters work their best when pushing up against something, like a wall. This means that if you want to move quickly and have better handling, you'll want to position your ship close to walls and other surfaces rather than simply staying completely away from all obstacles.
Choose your path (computing)
At its core, the key to enjoying DATA WING is in mastering the ability to slide smoothly and quickly along walls. Without making use of this mechanic, controlling your ship feels pretty bad, and you'll find yourself not making it very far into the game. Once you get the hang of it though, DATA WING plays like a dream. Although it may be hard to learn this weird control method, the game thankfully provides ghost racers in levels that you can try to follow and learn from.
Beyond its core mechanics, DATA WING continues being strange in some surprising ways. As you play, a whole narrative unfolds and new kinds of levels and mechanics reveal themselves. As mentioned before, this isn't just some stylish racing game. There are elements of platforming, puzzle-solving, and even some narrative choice sprinkled throughout the experience. Going into a new level almost always yields some new and interesting wrinkle to DATA WING's base gameplay, which makes it a complete joy to work your way through.
Style and substance
The thing that really ties all of DATA WING together though–more than its mechanics and level variety–is the game's style. It's minimalist graphics have an awesome glow with neat chromatic aberration effects, and the game's soundtrack is a delightful mix of vaporwave tunes.
The overarching effect of this aesthetic makes DATA WING feel totally otherworldly and futuristic while also being kind of hokey and nostalgic, and walking this balance is what the game does best. DATA WING looks and controls like games you've seen before, but it takes these familiar things and flips them on their ear to take them in completely new and compelling directions.
The bottom line
DATA WING is much more than a top down racer with a novel aesthetic. It takes racing-style controls and applies them to a whole host of scenarios that don't seem to fit its design, and yet–somehow–the whole thing just works. DATA WING is an incredible game that does a lot with a little, and does so with the same “effortless cool” of its audio/visual inspirations. Also, it's free, so what are you waiting for? Stop reading this and go get this game now.