Luftrausers is a 2D arcade dogfighting game from indie developers Vlambeer. It incorporates a sepia color scheme (others are unlockable) to the entire game that gives it a unique look. Games generally last anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes. So there is a steep learning curve and an even steeper difficulty curve. It took me a couple dozen games to finally get the feel for the controls. Up on the d-pad is your engine, with left and right allowing you to swivel your ship. The control and strategy of the game reminds me of dolphins hunting a school of fish. You’ll get a bunch of enemies chasing you only for you to turn your ship on a dime and charge right through them.
Luftrausers has a simple level up system and mission system with you scoring points and completing objectives. This leads to unlocking more pieces of your ship, each with their own benefits, flaws, and missions. You unlock the majority of upgrades in an hour or two. There are also different color schemes that will be unlocked as well. Most of them didn’t catch my eye as well as the original scheme though. Some were kind of painful to look at, kind of reminded me of the old palettes you could choose on a Gameboy color. As far as your ship, it can be customized with different main guns, bodies, and engines allowing for something over 100 different designs. Do you want to be heavily armored with a laser beam, or would you rather have a nuke that detonates upon your death? Each customization has its own name and more interestingly, its own piece of the soundtrack. So when you remix your build you’re remixing the overall background music too, a really neat touch. Regardless of what soundtrack you have going for you, there is an excellent part that is the same across all soundtracks. When you manage to stay alive long enough to hear it, it never fails to get you stoked.
Though there are multiple styles of play, not all of them seemed super well-suited for scorechasing. Making a melee build was pretty fun, but it was always damn tough to keep your combo up with that. Other builds felt a little obnoxious to play with. Anything that uses the “gungine” (the one that fires bullets as a way to propel you) always felt pretty useless to me. The homing missiles were also kind of finicky. Builds I would recommend would be the Tuberausers, Billy 40, Nightmare, Warturtle, and Sinker. Try them all though, maybe you can come up with some ridiculous strat that tops the leaderboards.
This game is really fickle with enemy spawns. It’s either feast or famine. The scoring system uses a multiplier mechanic allowing for X20 scores on killing enemies. You have something like 3 seconds to kill something before your multiplier goes away. This made me adopt a play style of not killing everything on screen at once but to slowly milk my combo by only killing one ship of the dozen chasing me at a time. This gets exceptionally frustrating when trying to take down heavily armored ships. I found myself swiveling between planes chasing me, then doing damage to a battleship, then back to planes to keep my combo going. Even when adopting tactics like this, sometimes the game would just spawn an Ace pilot on your ass and decide to kill you. Look I’m up for smarter enemies, but the Ace pilots and laser beam pilots always felt exceptionally cheap. I swear the only reason I topped the highscore board that one time was because of an exceptional spawn of submarines and normal airplanes that allowed me a huge combo. Eventually a blimp will spawn. I still haven’t taken it down and it kind of haunts me. I’ll keep you posted if I do manage to.
There are very few differences with PS3 and Vita versions. There is a little more stutter on the Vita, but it rarely hurt gameplay. Just like this developer’s other stuff, it’s meant to be enjoyed in small sittings. That of course didn’t stop me from taking an hour to steal the high score from some other nerd who was given an advance copy. Luftrausers had all the groundwork of a huge title, but after the 30th time getting killed by an Ace pilots spawning on your tail, things wear a bit thin. Nevertheless I enjoyed my time flying the deadly skies.
What I Like:
- Build Names
- Learning curve
- Some builds really change things up
What I Dislike:
- Aces and Laser Aces are cheap
- Combo System can be cruel
- Some builds are garbage