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Luftrausers

Score: 95%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Vlambeer
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Arcade/ Classic/Retro/ Action


Graphics & Sound:

Luftrausers is an understated wonder, a sepia-toned palette that recalls classic games of our 8-bit youth, but also evokes the setting of a vintage war film. In a landscape where pixellated graphics are to indie games what skinny jeans are to hipsters, Luftrausers manages to stand out. Part of the unique design is the approach of depicting everything as if seen in silhouette; an epic battle as the sun is rising or setting, perhaps? We surely must seem a bit gushy about the pretty face on Luftrausers, but itís worthy of the praise as the standout in a cavalcade of minimal indie titles.

Prepare for some similarly gushy comments on the sound and music. We love how the music is designed to rise and fall with the action during a game session, but the most impressive aspect of the game is that the music is customized according to your choices. There are a huge number of ways to remix your weapon as you progress through Luftrausers, and each combination has its own custom soundtrack. Along with the surging music comes the satisfying crackle and crump of gunfire, bombs, and enemies exploding as you try to survive and rack up maximum points. Itís a tour de force without a doubt, a one-two combination on the front end of a game that makes a career out of the replay.


Gameplay:

Some have said that the definition of insanity is repeating the same steps with the expectation of a different outcome. Proving that thereís occasionally some alchemy in repetition, Luftrausers is at first glance a mashup between the traditional arcade action/flying game and our beloved roguelikes. That connection to the new trend of procedurally-generated landscapes and dungeons comes from the fact that each playthrough of Luftrausers is really just a chance to score points before expiring in a fiery crash. The points you score earn you unlocks that make you a bit more powerful on the next playthrough. This mix of easy death and gradual progress is part of what makes Luftrausers so compelling.

The premise of the game is extremely simple and feels on face value like a wide array of classic arcade titles such as Time Pilot, 1943, and Zaxxon. Luftrausers does pay homage to these games, where one quarter earned you a bit of time for flying skillfully and jamming buttons to blast enemies from the sky. As with the classics, Luftrausers isnít so much about exploration as it is about prevailing against superior odds for as long as possible. Customizing your craft is a unique aspect of Luftrausers that helps it stand out, as well as the gameís overall controls and design. This version of the game was built up from an original sketch created during a 48-hour game jam, but feels as polished as any arcade title weíve played recently.


Difficulty:

Crushing difficulty is kind of the point here. The control scheme is one that takes a bit of getting used to, in that it doesnít map to the traditional WASD configuration. Once you do get the flying under your fingers, youíll notice that not shooting heals your craft. "Great," you say, "Now I canít possibly lose." Far from the case, as the bullet-hell aspects of Luftrausers eventually overwhelm even the best laid plans. Youíll need to get up-close and personal with enemies to win, to the point that you can kamikaze ships or other planes. In some cases, youíll unlock weapons designed especially for close combat. The net result is that even when you do your best to heal up and return for another attack, Luftrausers conspires to take you down.

A run-and-gun strategy that focuses on running a lot can make the game more playable for newbies, but you wonít earn many points this way. A multiplier system means that youíll need to stay in close for sequential kills if you want to earn the big points. Remember, itís not just about scoring points to see yourself on the leaderboard, since scoring quickly means more unlocks. In some cases unlocks come from special objectives, customized to each body part. Following through on these is another level of challenge within the game that dedicated players will enjoy.


Game Mechanics:

Sometimes people forget as they wax nostalgically for the days when one only had one joystick and one button that the games we played that way were HARD! Weíre talking analog controls all the way, and Luftrausers definitely rolls things back in the way it presents controls to the player. Two buttons control left and right rotation while a third controls thrust. Making thrust independent of movement is something that youíll have to practice, but it means you can "stall" the plane at high altitudes and spin around dealing death to surrounding planes.

The trick of not firing to heal is pretty sweet, and over time you do get into the groove. The control scheme, like the rest of Luftrausers, is quickly accessible. We obviously had a blast playing this one, and the guys at Vlambeer are to be commended for bringing this title to market. Just when you think the market is a bit saturated and there canít possibly be a new approach to arcade shooting, something like this comes along and proves you wrong. Highly recommended.


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows: Windows XP; Processor: 1.2Ghz+; Memory: 1024 MB RAM; Graphics: OpenGL 2.1 compatibale + 256MB Video; Hard Drive: 200 MB available space.

Mac: OSX 10.8+; Processor: 1.2Ghz+; Memory: 1024 MB RAM; Graphics: OpenGL 2.1 compatibale + 256MB Video; Hard Drive: 200 MB available space.

 

Test System:



Mac: Lion 10.9.1; 2GHz Intel Core i7; 8 GB RAM; Intel HD 4000 with 1024 MB VRAM.

Related Links:



Microsoft Xbox 360 Dark Souls II Sony PlayStation 3 Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated