Published on March 19th, 2014 | by Andy King5
LUFTRAUSERS! Sorry, I’ve been told by publishers Devolver Digital that LUFTRAUSERS must only be shouted when mentioned. That is true, because LUFTRAUSERS is something to shout about.
LUFTRAUSERS is an indie arcade shooter by developers Vlambeer and the objective of the game is …to shoot everything! Presented as a 2D side-scrolling “wrap around screen” shoot ’em up similar to old-old school games like 80’s Defender or 90’s Jetstrike your mission is to take to the skies and dodge, dip, dive, duck, dodge and finally BLAST anything that’s BLASTING at you! Enemies will come at you from all directions and in various forms. Ships, carriers and subs take pot shots from the sea and a menagerie of exotic planes (and a Zeppelin!) in the air that will engage in dog fights with you (or try and suicide themselves). As you progress things become more and more hectic to a dizzying degree as the amount going on at once escalates exponentially over 100 levels.
Thankfully as you play the game you complete challenges, level up and gain access to more and more aviation unlocks. In total 125 different combinations of weapons, armour and propulsion systems become available which vary wildly from thicker armour (which naturally gives you more protection, but then decreases your speed), guided missiles (that chase your target but only limited to shooting 4 at a time) or the more wacky “engine that fires bullets when you fly”. This diversity is a unique selling point of the game and getting the knack of each loadout and finding the best configuration to suit you or the scenario is key. For example I’m currently sporting an anti-gravity engine to stay in the air with minimal thrust, a laser which is less powerful than the machine gun but allows for constant damage over time and a light chassis to boost myself out of trouble …which is frequent.
Another plus is that the controls are minimal. No beefy manual on aeronautics or diploma for aerospace engineering required here lads! For the PC version of the game the up arrow gives you forward thrust, left and right turn you in a clockwise or counter-clockwise movement and ‘X’ fires your gun. Stop firing, and your plane repairs itself. Double tap thrust to give you a boost to (hopefully) speed you out of trouble. Simple? Well doing this under fire and the pressure of needing at times some pin-point precession of Maverick, it’s tough and times quite unforgiving.
Visual wise LUFTRAUSERS is presented (for the most part) in a sepia scheme. Images are simple and suitably retro, fitting to its heritage, while audio is catchy and 16-bit. The audible tone to indicate your planes damage and repair progress is a particularly nice touch as it allows players to not have to rely on a visual cue (such as a 100% bar) that could easily be distracting especially when so much is going on.
Overall LUFTRAUSERS is another great example of an indie title that I’m sure will be recognised for its achievements. It’s (Warning: Indie Game Cliché Alert!) easy to learn, fun to play, cheap (which is important in this day and age) and has a good re-playability. Recommended if you’re a fan of the genre or have the change and looking for something to while away your time with when not wanting to drop robots from the sky.
LUFTRAUSERS is now available on PlayStation 3, PS Vita, PC, Mac and Linux. PC version reviewed. Still not sure about the game? The developers have also put up a flash version of the original concept which you can play here for free!
I hope to be catching up with Vlambeer (and hopefully Mr Luftrauser himself, Rami Ismail) at Rezzed next week.
Summary: LUFTRAUSERS is a solid indie hit and should be recognised that bigger isn't always better. Equal parts frantic and elegant. No doubt the handheld version will be a top seller.