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REVIEW | “Luftrausers” Soars Crazy Retro Heights

By
Posted on April 30, 2014 AT 07:21am

Back at PAX East 2013 I came across a game from Vlambeer (Ridiculous Fishing) called Luftrausers, a side-scrolling shoot ‘em up that had you flying the open skies and shooting down enemies dogfight-styled. Now almost a year later the folks over at Devolver Digital have brought Vlambeer’s game under its wing, and have finally pushed it out of its nest for that most-important of flights. Does Luftrausers ascend to the clouds, or has it come hurtling down to the ground in a fiery blaze?

In Luftrausers you take control of a fighter pilot who wishes to rule the skies for his comrades in arms. Your targets range from the tiniest of aircrafts and boats to the massiveness of blimps and battleships, all of whom do everything in their power to shoot you down. There is no backup, only you and your skills.

Once you get shot down and earn enough points you can upgrade your ship to do various things. Weaponry can range from dropping a bomb every so often while shooting to firing off four heat-seeking missiles. When it comes to engines and armor you can have them fire off a shot from behind or even have it so you never take water damage (although you become weak when hitting the clouds).

I’m usually a sucker for dogfighting games, since the days of Sierra’s Red Baron series, going all the way up to Smart Bomb Interactive’s shockingly well-done (and my 2010 Game of the Year pick) Snoopy Flying Ace. So when I first went hands-on with Luftrausers over a year ago I was hooked by its gameplay mechanics. Now that the full version has finally come out I am happy to report that not only have the key elements stayed in place, but the game has added more excitement at almost every turn.

The game controls like a side-scrolling plane fighter should, with the grace of a dove and the determination of a hungry buzzard. Trying to shoot down enemies can be challenging, but once you figure out how to pull some aerial tricks taking down planes will become second nature. I’m not gonna lie, though: I was having a hoot of a time ramming into the enemy planes instead of shooting them down, as it made me feel more like an unstoppable force of nature…until I get shot down, of course.

What I like about Luftrausers is the fact that as you level up, the difficulty of the game ascends with you. Mind you, it’s not the fact that the planes get harder, it’s that more of them will come swarming towards you. When you start off the game there are minimal planes and boats appearing to try and take you down. However as you earn more weapons and customizations (which can lead towards 125 different combinations) you start noticing more enemy planes and boats and planes appearing on a more massive scale.

Does that make it a lot harder and frustrating? Absolutely! However a good player knows that taking a fly swatter to a plethora of pests requires a good amount of patience and timing. This is what Luftrausers does a great job at teaching: in order to strike down your enemies you need time and focus to get the job done right.

Of course, not everything is perfect about the game. While I found the increase of difficulty to be great there are some who may be frustrated at it, as does escalate very quickly. There’s also the issue of some of the weapon upgrades feeling more like, well, downgrades. (The laser beam weapon, which on paper would seem awesome, isn’t as cool and effective as it could be.) Finally there is the addicting level of the game, which means that “just one more play through” really translates to “three hours later…”

What is perfect, though, about Luftrausers is its soundtrack, composed by Jukio “Kozilek” Kallio. Its techno beats may seem out of place in a World War II-inspired game, but as soon as you hit the skies the sounds that come pounding through your speakers just seem to fit with what’s happening on the screen. Kudos, too, for changing up the soundtrack every time you switch around your weapons and planes, as it adds to the adrenaline-pumping intensity that you’ll be facing during gameplay.

PROS:

  • Fine display of side-scrolling dogfighting
  • Great flight controls
  • Incredibly catchy soundtrack

CONS:

  • Increasing difficulty may frustrate some
  • Can get a little too addicting
  • Some weapon upgrades not as useful as they seem

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Luftrausers is one massively insane shoot ‘em up, one that aims high while staying true to some old-school gaming mechanics. With dozens of plane combinations you can go through you’ll be spending hours upon hours conquering the skies above.

FINAL GRADE: 8.0 (out of ten)

Steam review code provided by Liz Stewart of Tinsley-PR

Evan Bourgault is an accomplished music, anime, and video game critic. His passion for discovering new bands, developers, and Japanese pop culture began in his college radio days and continues on today. Evan joined the ElectricSistaHood team in 2008, where he is a contributing editor and host of one of the network's weekly podcasts. Follow Evan on Twitter at twitter.com/King_Baby_Duck


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