That sense of aesthetic pleasure you get from a really good-looking game can often be enough to compensate for any minor flaws it has. Or encourage you to persevere when ordinarily you'd be prepared to give up.

DOT Space Hero's lovely art style - which reminded me most of the charming children's picture books by celebrated illustrator and author Oliver Jeffers - offsets my frustrations with the difficult later stages.

In the game developer's defence, it's not that these stages are particularly unfair. It's more that 1Coin is understandably harking back to a bygone era here. This is a game inspired by side-scrollers of the arcade era, and its challenge is eerily reminiscent of its ancestors.

Space raiders

Indeed, there's a clear-eyed affection for gaming's past from the outset, where bulbous-headed protagonist Dot is pictured playing games while munching what looks like irradiated popcorn (in the event, it turns out to be stardust.)

Yet after a nap, Dot awakens to find that someone has run off with his delicious snack. Rather than grab a fresh pack from his local galactic convenience store, he gathers his jet pack and flies into space to retrieve the stardust.

The planets Dot explores whiz by as he takes to the air. It's your job to guide him out of harm's way by tapping the left side of the screen to boost him upwards. By releasing your thumb, Dot will fall back down.

Fire in the (black) hole

Happily, you're not restricted to simply dodging enemies, as Dot's carrying a laser pistol that you can fire with a tap of your right thumb.

On the face of it, Dot's journey is a short one, but beating every planet and the final battle may take longer than you think. You only have three hearts to complete a stage. And when that involves weaving between huge shifting rocks and zapping large enemies that shoot back, you'll lose them all more than once or twice.

Zap the right enemies or blast meteors into tiny pieces, and you'll find power-ups, some of which increase the power of your gun for the duration of the level. Others offer a temporary but more devastating solution. With one gun, for example, you can fires spikes. With another, you can shoot huge balls of energy that disintegrate enemies on contact.

Hover bovver

It's all good clean fun, but unfortunately the controls take the shine off the surface. The jet pack never quite feels right: Dot is a little sluggish to get off the ground and hovers for a split second before descending.

As a result, it feels slightly sticky and unresponsive. You'll acclimatise soon enough, but Dot never feels quite as manoeuvrable as you'd like him to be.

A few additional irritations creep in, too. The final stages serve more as a memory test than a challenge of your twitch reflexes, for instance, as you have to hit both ends of an electric gate spreading across the entire height of the levels to avoid being fried by the current.

With the invulnerability period after a hit being very short, it's possible to get hit twice by the same obstacle, losing two-thirds of your energy in the process.

Star burst

Still, the challenge is satisfying to tackle, and you'll be delighted to beat a level, even if you haven't earned the par score to obtain all three stars. Do so and earn a crown by blasting the floating bonus at the end of each stage, and you'll win an extra gem as a prize.

DOT Space Hero is not without its problems, then, but there's a guileless charm that permeates the game. It may not be anything more than a straightforward side-scroller, but it's a mostly pleasant diversion while it lasts.