Dune Sea is a remarkably average new platformer that has you soaring like a bird across simplistic yet oddly beautiful polygonal landscapes. The setup is brief; a meteor has hit the earth separating you from your flock and you must navigate 12 unique levels full of dangers and collectibles to rejoin them. The game design is a minimal as its presentation. There were no graphical settings for even the simplest things like resolution or v-sync; not that it mattered, as the game looked and performed quite well at whatever settings it was running.
Dune Sea felt almost like a mobile game conversion at times – Flappy Bird came to mind – with its barebones setup and simplistic gameplay. You basically squeeze the trigger to flap your wings and steer your goose around the levels collecting various items, flying through rings and avoiding environmental hazards. You do have a stamina meter that can be replenished by eating various collectibles or landing on designated landing pads before taking off to continue the level. The game does track your distance and deaths for each level offering a bit of incentive to replay and do better despite having no leaderboards for competitive comparison.
The controls and physics seemed slightly off to me. If you stopped flapping for even a moment you fall like a rock out of the sky taking away any sense of gliding or soaring. You are always chugging through the air. Since release they have launched a patch to implement a smooth glide, which helps with this part of the flight mechanics. Landing was especially difficult. Failure to hit the B button at just the right time would cause you to crash even if you were inches above the ground, and if you didn’t release the right trigger in time you would touch down and take off right away. You could also use the left trigger to dive, but I never found a good time to use that, plus if you start a dive from anything lower than the top of the screen you would usually crash.
Along your travels you will encounter other birds that you can call out to and have them join your flock. This was a nice feature but seemed to serve no real purpose. I thought there might be gated progress where you had to have x-many birds in your flock to continue, etc. or perhaps an aerial battle where superior numbers were required to win. Even so, it is pretty cool to see a growing flock of birds flying together.
The visuals were stylishly cool with visible polygons creating simplistic shapes and landscape details. Your goose character had a visibly haggard look about him/her complete with ruffled feathers. Air trails enhanced the feel of speed and direction as you flew around and the camera had some cool dynamic moves, pulling out for wide shots and zooming in for more precise navigational moments. There was even a slick 3D feel to the side-scrolling presentation as you could clearly see the world wrapping and curving around.
That’s pretty much it for Dune Sea. You basically fly for as long and as far as you can while trying not to crash and die. Collect the various floating seeds, leaves, and flowers, pass through the rings to trigger helpful environmental events that will get you past creepy tentacle creatures and enjoy the soothing music and charming visuals in this unique Zen-like approach to a flying platformer. You can finish Dune Sea in just a couple hours and I found no compelling reason to keep playing after that. It’s fun enough, but for $17 you might want to wait for a sale.