BADGP Review: Luftrausers

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Luftrausers (Vlambeer, Devolver Digital)

Released: March 18, 2014

Alex Linna

Review: Skies of Arcade-ia

Luftrausers is created by the people behind iOS success, Ridiculous Fishing.  They share some characteristics such as a simple art style, focus on a simple mechanic, involve a lot of customization, and are both based on an addicting and quick feedback loop.  A round of Luftrausers is much like a cast in Ridiculous Fishing.  The games play differently, of course, but the small team at Vlambeer is nearing the perfection of their art with their ability of creating engaging experiences with such simple premises.

Luftrausers is essentially a modern take on Asteroids.

Audio/Visual

Luftrausers is not entirely impressive to look at.  It has a simple visual style reminiscent of the Atari era of games as well as last year’s Proteus.  The art for the character designs seen between missions hold a lot of charm and add to the overall aesthetic.  What is accomplished with basically two colors is impressive.  The music is selling part for this game and greatly enhances the experience.  The tracks are catchy and are subtly remixed depending on what customizable parts are in use. After a certain amount of time in a run, the music changes and alters the tone and intensity of the experience making it a joy to continue playing.

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Gameplay

The point of Luftrausers is to shoot all the planes and boats.  After a certain amount of destruction or time has passed, “boss” enemies will appear and certain objectives are locked behind their annihilation.  Controls are simple enough. On a keyboard and mouse, “x” shoots and the arrow keys fly; I found the arrow keys easier to maneuver with over the control stick of a gamepad.  Flying too high into the clouds will make the aircraft take damage, as well as diving into the water (unless the right engine is equipped), but dive-bombing boats is certainly a viable strategy.

Much like Ridiculous Fishing, Luftrausers possesses robust customization options.  The difference being instead of choosing reels, guns, and, lures, the player may build a custom aircraft suited to their play style; the variables being the weapon, body, and engine.  Each potential build has its own name like Piranha, Fork, Grasshopper, etc. This endears specific types of craft to the player and embeds a feeling of ownership.  My “Billy 40” is unstoppable. Oh, I wish that were true.  Luftrausers is true to its arcade-y roots and is quite challenging.  Each death is not pointless however, due to there being a persistent leveling system that unlocks new parts to experiment with.  Part of Luftrausers’ brilliance is in how each part also has a series of objectives, so I found myself playing to complete those and not just see how far I could get or even try to beat my high score.

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The “one more time” feeling is present in full force in Luftrausers.  Pressing “up” is all it takes to start again, so it is easy to get back into the action almost immediately.  Much like Hotline Miami, a Zen-like state may be entered where the next round has already begun without even noticing.  This kind of flow is hard to achieve, but Luftrausers is as addicting as it is simple.

Seeing Luftrausers in action will do more for a potential buyer than any amount of words describing it could do, so here is a video of some gameplay.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_EFHsHPtdk

It took me a solid 15-20 minutes to really get a hold of how the game handles, but when I did, Luftrausers had its hooks in me for good.  The choice to put the health meter as a vacillating circle around the craft was brilliant and works wonderfully in practice.  Health is restored by not firing your weapon.  This creates a tense balance of restorative defense versus offensive damage capabilities.  Do I keep firing to destroy this battleship once and for all or do I retreat to the skies and recover my health?

The Recommendation

Upon seeing Luftrausers’ gameplay it is likely that you will know if the game is for you or not.  It is an excellent arcade-style Asteroids game with stirring music and an addictive formula of upgrades and objectives.  It may look simple, but the draw and complexity of the game comes from in the unlocking of new parts and objectives.  Those who like to experiment with a game’s systems will find a lot to enjoy in Luftrausers.  The game also splashes “Tea Break” across the screen when it is paused, so what is not to like?  Luftrausers is intense.  The thrill of diving into the water to kamikaze a battleship that has been particularly annoying and emerging just escaping death is something I will not forget anytime soon.

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Score:

8.0 out of 10

 

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