Humour as black as its inky cosmic backdrop pervades this outer-space dexterity test. The premise is that your spaceship is destroyed, leaving the crew alive but marooned in the void and with no prospect of rescue.

The heroic captain returns. Normally, this would signal a cunning plan, a swift rescue and a happy ending; that's not the case here, because his sole goal is to ensure everyone gets their last wish - to not die alone.

Each of the 60 levels in Sunburn! therefore finds the captain scooting about space, collecting up his scattered colleagues (and their space-faring cats and dogs, complete with dinky spacesuit garb) and flying into the sun.

Lost in space

Holding one side of the screen enables the captain to turn, and tapping both at once emits a small blast of oxygen from his jetpack's limited supply, propelling him onwards.

On venturing near a stranded comrade, they become attached as if by an oddly stretchy rubber-like tether, and once everyone's on board the Death Express, it's time for a one-way trip to Sunburnville.

Initially, the test is mild, with Sunburn! slowly introducing you to its tiny universes. You learn how to control your jetpack, and how to take off from tiny planetoids with atmospheres that helpfully replenish your limited oxygen supply.

You realise that you can't just zoom about like a maniac, because fuel is scarce, and you'll abruptly run out, freeze to death, and leave behind friends who'll consider you terribly selfish for not killing them as you expired.

Feel the heat

Soon, though, space becomes a mite trickier to deal with. You come across glass planets that can only be returned to a few times before they smash.

There are asteroids it's all too easy to bounce off in an uncontrollable manner. And then deadly comets and molten planetoids enter the mix, making things especially tricky if you're already towing a string of suicidal astronauts.

Despite the various silly utterances of the presumably petrified (or perhaps just resigned) crew and the old-school pixel graphics, Sunburn! is a game brimming with atmosphere.

The moody, ambient soundtrack is punctuated only by blasts of intercom, and floating in space combines a sense of freedom with real fear as you see the oxygen level rapidly diminish.

The gravity of the situation

Throughout, Sunburn! also has a curious sense of progression that's alien to much modern gaming, but key to many of the classic titles that its visuals evoke. Rather than a gradual difficulty curve, Sunburn! ebbs and flows.

One level might be surprisingly tricky, followed by another that gives you a bit of a breather. Mostly, this feels entirely suitable, and an interesting mirror to the central theme of being cast adrift in the unknown.

Sunburn! slips only as it reaches its conclusion. Around level 50, too many tasks become so testing that every sliver of grace is unceremoniously wrenched from the game. What was oddly beautiful, occasionally heartwarming and silly, and frequently bittersweet just becomes bitter.

You begin to curse the lack of navigational aids in larger levels, and vital seconds are robbed as you pinch-zoom the screen. You start to tire of the arduous slog Sunburn! becomes.

In the end, perhaps after two days battling Return of the Voidsnake (level 55) or Big Zipper (level 58), you'll quietly turn your back on the captain and his fellows - and they deserved better.