Luftrausers Review

Luftrausers is a 2d dogfighting game developed by Vlambeer, makers of Super Crate Box and Ridiculous Fishing, and published by Devolver Digital. Luftrausers was released on March 18th, 2014 and is available for PS3, PS Vita, PC, Mac and Linux. A download code was provided for review purposes. This review is based off of the PC version.

Luftrausers started life as a flash prototype developed during a two day jam and released for free.  Take the multi-scrolling arcade shooter Time Pilot, add a gravity system and plane customization, score chase mechanics and leaderboards, and cram that into an 8 bit  minimal color palette system, and you will have the gist of this game.

In the true spirit of arcade games past, you are going to die, fast and often as you play Luftrausers. The delicate balance between thrust and gravity provides the highlight of playing this game, deftly avoiding enemy fire while taking out the enemy fighters and ships is an enjoyable mechanic of this game that gives it that “one more go” feel. The game environment is also balanced, requiring your fighter, or Rauser, to stay above the ocean, and below the cloud ceiling to avoid taking additional damage.

While the control mechanic can, at first, seem difficult, it only takes a few games before you are able to bend gravity to your will and the game becomes a ballet of flight and free fall with a few bullets thrown in. Without a mastery of this control mechanic you will probably fail to last past a few minutes in any game.

Adding to that balance is a damage system that requires letting off the fire button to repair damage to your Rauser. The game uses a shrinking circle around your Rauser to indicate the amount of damage taken, so as it closes in on the Rauser you have to stop firing to get the circle to expand again. This mechanic is in direct opposition to the score chase mechanic which is a score multiplier that can grow to 20X, but requires timely damage to enemies to keep the multiplier going.

This multiplier mechanic brings me to one of my main gripes with the game. There were times when I hit the multiplier limit of 20X but then fail to see any airborne targets. Some games the enemy fighters are everywhere and then other games they just don’t seem to be plentiful. I’m not sure if they are spawned randomly or as a result of damage done to ships, but since the main thing driving this game is to get a higher score, the sometimes lack of enemy fighters can make it very difficult.

Rauser customization comes in the form of swappable Body, Engine and Weapons which can be set in any combination before launching the Rauser. 5 options for each mean 125 possible combinations, and the dynamic soundtrack system is said to match the music to your chosen combination. Weapons vary from single fire to multi-fire guns, guided missiles, and Cannons. Bodies provide unique attributes like armor, melee capability, nuke detonation on death, and Bombs. Engine parts affect speed, turning and offer additional capabilities like low gravity, firing additional bullets or allowing underwater travel without taking damage.

Customize your Luftrauser for maximum damage.

The parts are earned through a series of unlocks which are tied to leveling or completing challenges.  Each game starts with three challenges listed and the current level, and how many points need to be earned before the next level is reached. The levels in the version that I played seemed to max out at 10, and at that point I had all the parts unlocked, and a random option for each component, which when set produces a random combination of parts with each game start.

Enemies in the game come in many forms, the basic ones are fighters and ships. Battleships are larger ships which have several guns that are able to shoot in many directions although they all fire at the same angle. If you last long enough you will see Ace fighters which are larger and fire longer streams of projectiles at your Rauser.  There are also submarines that fire guided missiles, and a blimp with firepower similar to the battleships.

The elusive and mighty Blimp!!

 

The difficulty in the game spikes at one of the last mission objectives in the normal mode which is to take down a blimp. Blimps only appear after you have worked your way through many of the lesser foes, and until you take out a blimp you can not try the games more difficult mode, which is mysteriously titled SFMT, in a nod to a mode in the earlier title, Super Crate Box.

As noted earlier, graphics in this game are definitely of the 8-bit variety. With the fast and brutal action on screen I did not find it detracting from my game play experience, but did feel the limited color palette used made it difficult at times to delineate enemies from background from projectiles. The big pluses to this game are the high number of Rauser combinations which provide different play mechanics, and the score multiplier which fuels the desire for one more round.

There is no story to speak of, but in the spirit of the arcade games this title emulates, you probably shouldn’t expect one. I would say if this were to be found in the typical 80’s arcade it would definitely have been a William’s cabinet, as you will die hard, fast, and often in this game, but keep coming back for more.

About the author

Dave is an old school gamer that grew up on a steady diet of Atari 2600. He waits patiently for that Star Raiders HD remix that is due any day now and aspires to be a world famous Gunter (please read Ready Player One). Several Pizzas were harmed in the making of this review.

  • Rob Goddard

    Played this on the PS3. That blimp was the bane of my existence.

  • If I learned one thing in life, I am much better with my feet on the ground and this carries over to video games. I’m wretched flying anything.

    • Macksimus

      I’m horrible at this game but really enjoyed it and Dave’s review makes me want to grab my vita and go back at it!

  • Guest

    In the end I think it’s a lame repetitive experience.

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