Tom Hooper aka Atomp
Vlambeer don’t seem to get much luck in the development space, they are constantly the victim of mobile app store cloning as unscrupulous businesses attempt to capitalise on on their good game design. Hopefully the successes of their genuine products work to offset some of the cheap arsehole-ery that the mobile market seems to thrive off and with Luftrausers the genuine product is a fine thing indeed and in this particular case the game became profitable within three days of release. Apparently based on a Flash game made by some of Vlambeer previously Luftrausers is a side-on 2D dogfighting game where the player pilots a ‘Rauser’ and uses it to dominate AI opponents.
The Rauser itself is difficult to describe as a plane, in most cases (as there are varying engine, body and weapon types) the flight characteristics of the Rausers are more ballistic than aerodynamic and the use of the thruster to blast around often feels much like Asteroids, but with an ocean, a sky and a whole load of baddies that shoot back. The game is scored according to a combo system, knocking out individual planes and such will net very little in the overall score but get them in a big group and your score will sky rocket. Enemies vary; with the oceans containing small boats, battleships with mean flack and submarines whom will surface and let off a few missiles your way. Airbourne enemies that I’ve encountered so far include small slow props, jet fighters, missiles, boss aircraft called aces and that damnable airship. These enemies each pose a different threat and are often not that much of a problem alone, but rarely are they engaged alone and before you know it you dodged down out of the machinegun fire of an Ace into a horrible mess of flack from the battleship perched in the water below. Health is regenerative, however it will only regenerate when not firing so it’s necessary to evade for a time whilst the Rauser is repaired. I’m a fan of this particular mechanic as it somewhat defines the game as different from top-down shooters which although good in their own right tend to focus purely on constant firing rather than the quick snappy evade and fire entertainment to be found in Luftrausers.
The combat is extraordinarily satisfying and to be fair it’s the star of the show and really the focus of the game. The controls are simple yet tight and the manner in which the different Rausers handle dictates your particular combat style, whether it be a fast “Crazy Ivan” prone Rauser or a heavy plow clean through enemies regardless of guns, missiles and other paraphernalia. The controls with their simplicity and retro feel give a good sensation of being an insane ace dogfighter which is then only reinforced by that perfectly executed stalled double backflip triple kill you find yourself doing to avoid getting a severe beating from flack.
In addition to the combat are progression elements based around unlocking weapon, body and engine parts. These vary widely in their design and utility and can be put together in any combination that seems appropriate to that particular run. These are unlocked through completing tasks specific to each part or gaining enough overall score to level up. This has the effect of giving what could potentially be a repetitive grind some structure and direction. In addition to unlocks there is a gradual roll-out of new enemy types as the player progresses. I’ve personally only gotten to the airship and have yet to survive to destroying it so I can’t tell you what’s after but it’s probably really mean.
The aesthetic is a retro pixelated arcade style with a sepia tint representing the modern-but-not World War 2 setting. The art in the cut scenes and menus is good and stylised nicely, with the gameplay itself going for an even lower fidelity sepia silhouette look. The gameplay also seems to rather oddly be forced into 4:3 ratio, I’m guessing to fit the arcade aesthetic. Overall though everything is clear and the theme is consistent with good quality art assets making for a simple yet effective visual style. The music is worthy of mention being a mishmash of military and chiptune and having some significantly damn fine qualities. The variety of tracks isn’t as great as I’d like but it doesn’t get to the point of being too repetitive.
Luftrausers is available on Windows, Mac, Linux, PS3 and PS Vita, so really just about everywhere an indie would reasonably want to be. PS3 and Vita is a no-choice situation on purchasing so you’re looking at £6.00 (approx $9.99) from the PS Store. Windows, Mac and Linux have the old toss-up between buying Steam direct or taking the clever route and buying with the Humble widget on the game page. The Humble widget is charging £6.00 (approx $9.99) and Steam is charging £6.99 (approx $11.64) so really the decision is made for you. Compatibility and performance wise, this is one to appease toaster-owners everywhere as it isn’t likely to strain any hardware from the last 10 years.
Game Website (with Humble widget):
Luftrausers on Steam:
Luftrausers on the Playstation Store: