Everyone has dreams about flying at some time or other. They're the most joyous dreams you can have.

The snoozing protagonist of 8bit Doves finds himself flying through a bizarre dream world too, but it doesn't seem to be a very pleasant experience.

In fact, this particular nightmare involves crashing into walls, and floors again and again. And again.

Swoopy birds

Anyone who says that the sadistically tough tap-to-fly mechanics of Flappy Bird are a dead-end is talking nonsense.

For one thing, Flappy Bird wasn't the first game to adopt such a control system or approach, and it won't be the last. For another, games like 8bit Doves show that there's plenty of scope for experimentation within the format.

Progress is level based, and the four-colour graphics are clearly inspired by the original Game Boy, but it's 8bit Doves's controls that really set it apart. They're just plain odd.

Swooping and hollering

Hold the right side of the screen and our sleepy-head will take off from his bed and soar in a lazy anti-clockwise circle. Hold the left side and he'll flip to a clockwise arc.

That's it. But that's also sufficient to both guide you through a set of twisting, undulating levels, and thoroughly scramble your brain.

The constant flip or orientation and direction requires what seems to be a constant rewiring of your neural pathways. There's a disconnect between what you're pressing and how your character is reacting that never quite resolves itself.

Add in that wide turning circle and some fiendishly tight levels, and you have the recipe for another hair-pulling experience.

Safe landing

Somehow though, 8bit Doves never slips into unfair territory. Whether it's that benign retro art style, the fact that none of the levels are actually that long, or the way you find yourself - delightfully - collecting doves along the way, I'm not sure.

Given Nitrome's proven skill, I'm tempted to conclude that it's all of the above.

While it's true that 8bit Doves never soars the heights that we know the developer is capable of, this is nonetheless a solid and quietly imaginative take on a seemingly limited sub-genre.