Spinning in the skies.
LUFTRAUSERS, from the celebrated indie developer Vlambeer and publisher Devolver Digital, is a retro-styled, fast-paced, score-chasing shooter which will require lightning reflexes and a sense of direction. Oh, and it happens to be available on PS3, Vita, Windows, Mac and Linux.
LUFTRAUSERS is an unfriendly game, and not one for the feint-hearted. The game gives the player control over a little plane in enemy territory, and the enemies are plentiful and relentless. The singular aim of the game, in a throw back to the arcade machines of yesteryear, is to get a good score. With attempts at playing the game lasting only seconds, or minutes if you happen to be very good, the temptation to hop back into the action and try for an even better score than last time is unavoidable. but with the difference between a good score and a less impressive score being only a matter of pixels much of the time, it will be easy to sink many hours into what is basically a very small game.
So, playing the game on a PC will involve only a few keys on the keyboard. There is support for a controller, if that is how you happen to roll, but the keyboard controls work perfectly well and are surprisingly easy to use. The left and right arrow buttons are used to rotate the direction of the plane, and the up arrow will boost the plane in whatever direction it is facing. The only other button to worry about is the X button which is used to fire your planes’ weapon.
No matter how simple the controls are, actually piloting the game is an exercise in skill. Players of certain other games will recognise the control scheme which so often results in the lane flying around in circles or colliding head long into whatever the pilot was trying to avoid.
And there will be plenty on the screen to collide with. The top and bottom boundaries are not too much of a problem – the sea at the bottom of the screen can be happily be dipped into for a brief moment without too much risk, and the clouds above will just spit the player back out again. The real problem comes from the enemy planes, which come in all manner of varieties including slow, small cannon fodder style and zippy jet planes, and spit bullets or rockets in the players general direction. Then there are the battleships that constantly fire projectiles into the sky, and the Blimps which fire projectiles back towards the ground. All in all, there is not much hope. Each time the player takes a hit, or collides with something, damage is done and a circle around the plane will get smaller, until destruction. The plane can heal, but that will mean taking a break from shooting.
But wracking up an impressive score will mean the player has to take down these mighty adversaries, along with scores of lesser enemies, and build up a score multiplyer. Chaining kills together, to a max multiplyer of 20, will result in some truly epic scores, but maintaining that multiplyer will require true skill.
If skill is not your strong point, leveling up will unlock various plane parts that will allow the player to tweak their flying machine for certain advantages. Different plane engines, bodies and weapons can be used to make a decent selection of different planes with capabilities such as being able to stay underwater for long, more impressive destruction with the weapon or simply exploding nuke style on death to just grab a few more points.
Visually, the game has a retro look which could have been at home on the original Gameboy. There is a sepia hint to everything and the animations are simple yet effective. Despite the retro look, there is an attention to detail and quality that runs through LUFTRAUSERS. Even the rousing soundtrack fits perfectly with the action, inspiring the player to greater scores.
LUFTRAUSERS is not a big game. Even with the leveling and unlocking new parts for your plane, it will not take long for even the most inept pilot to see everything the game has to offer. That being said, LUFTRAUSERS is very much a game about scoring big, and levels or unlocks don’t even factor in that drive. If you yearn for the old days of the arcade greats and have a hankering for chasing the high scores, a few minutes in LUFTRAUSERS will very likely turn into hours and will be a worthwhile purchase.