Vlambeer is one of the most interesting indie studios out there. Despite only being a few years old they have put out numerous games, the majority of which are great. But what makes them really interesting is the way in which they work. Each of their games is quite simple at first sight, and the core mechanics are usually running within just days of starting development, but it’s the following months of refinement and polish that add the extra quality. Luftrausers is no different.
It’s a 2D dogfighting game that sees you speed across the skies above the enemy lines in a plane, destroying everything in your path. High scores are the aim of the game, and killing enemy vehicles will not only boost your score but also your combo meter. Getting and sustaining the magical max combo (by destroying 20 enemies in quick succession) is the key to high scores.
However, reaching and sustaining the max combo is no easy task, as the enemy will do their best to bring your Luftrauser down. The enemies consist of both planes and boats, which come in different varieties. The most common enemy, and the one you’ll probably be killing the most is the standard fighter plane, as they pose little threat but are a great way of boosting up your combo. The enemies become more of a pain once Ace’s and Battleships become involved, both of which will unleash a storm of bullets towards you. Then there are the mythical Blimps that will appear once in a blue moon. Killing one of these is no easy task.
In order to defeat the enemy you must have your Luftrauser equipped with a weapon, body and engine. You can select any combination of the different parts to form your Luftrauser, which results in over a hundred different possibilites. Most combinations will be effective in at least one aspect of combat, but finding the best plane for your needs is essential. Once I settled on a combination I liked, the high scores started to flow like never before.
Each different part of your Luftrauser will have a mission associated with it, such as killing 150 enemies in total, or destroying 8 boats in one combo. Some missions are incredibly easy whereas others will likely take forever to complete. The missions serve as a way to unlock new plane parts so whist it’s not necessary to complete them it, it certainly helps and adds a bit of variety to the game.
Controlling your Luftrauser is a simple task, using the left and right arrow keys to rotate your plane in the appropriate direction and using the up arrow to activate your thrusters. Firing is done by way of the ‘x’ key, which can be held for a constant stream of bullets. The simple controls make maneuvering around the skies a joy, and when you add in the physics and the ability to “stall” your plane and plummet to towards the sea it becomes even more entertaining. Stopping your thrusters mid-fight and falling towards the sea is actually a great way of gaining a positional advantage in a large battle.
When you take damage a circle appears around your plane, showing how long you have left. If the circle closes around your plane it’s game over, but your plane can repair if you stop firing. The circle is just one of many great small visual prompts featured in Luftrausers – others include the spray that comes off the water when you fly just above the surface or the screen shake when an explosion happens. It’s these little things that give Luftrausers its character and, although you may not notice them at first, they add so much to the feel of the game.
The soundtrack is also something that will stay with you. Each different combination of plane will have a slightly different soundtrack, but they are all very similar. The music will change as the on-screen situation changes, building up to fights and then unleashing the chorus section once a battle breaks out.
VERDICT: Luftrausers is perfect for those who love chasing high scores. The gameplay is so entertaining it never becomes repetitive and scores always seem beatable. The ability to restart within two button presses makes it really easy to convince yourself one more game is okay, even when it’s 2am and you have to be up at 6!
The near-perfect controls combined with the great soundtrack and visuals mean it’s difficult not to like Luftrausers, and its simplicity makes it accessible to everyone. There are a few small issues, such as a difficult menu and the odd frame rate drop, but none that impact the overall game significantly. Luftrausers is well worth your time and money, and is easily Vlambeer’s best game yet.
SUPERB. This is the mark of greatness, only awarded to games that engage us from start to finish. Titles that score 9/10 will have very few problems or negative issues, and will deliver high quality and value for money across all aspects of their design.
Review code provided by publisher.