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Luftrausers review

We take to the skies in the latest game from Vlambeer.

Luftrausers

Luftrausers is made up of gameplay elements similar to those found in Asteroids, Defender and Geometry Wars. However this is no copycat, it’s the latest game from Dutch indie developer Vlambeer (Ridiculous Fishing, Super Crate Box). We’ve been taking a look at the game on PS Vita.

Based on Luftrauser, their earlier Flash-based game, this new release has been expanded and given far more polish. Luftrausers is a score-attack game where you control a pilot who is in control of an experimental aircraft called a Rauser. At the start of each game your Rauser is launched into the sky from a submarine. Your aim is simply to get a high score and survive as long as you can by destroying enemies and evading their fire.

Your Rauser is made up of three parts – a main body, a gun and an engine. You initially start out with basic parts but the more you play and the more missions you complete the more parts you will unlock. Missions change based on what parts you choose and task you with things like destroying a certain type of enemy. In total there are 125 different combinations to try out and each one is given its own name, unique look and behaves slightly differently.

Luftrausers

No matter how you prefer to play you’ll find a combination that works best for you. You can go for a fast and manoeuvrable craft with low health, a balanced craft or something slow and sluggish that is capable of taking heavy damage. The variety of parts is superb and includes crazy options such as a nuke body that detonates on death, an underwater engine allowing you to dip into the water with no penalty and even an engine propelled by bullets.

Our favourite combination happened to be the tough and slow body, with a laser weapon and a low gravity hover engine. This allowed us to worry less about taking damage or colliding with enemies but forced us to think more about movement. Bouncing in and out of the water is a favourite tactic as it can help you escape a barrage of bullets.

Once in the air the enemies start to appear and each game is different. Usually you’ll face small planes and gunboats followed by jets, submarines, battleships and more. Taking the smaller foes out is easy but others prove a challenge. The fast moving Aces take concentration and patience while the battleships and submarines require a lot of damage to destroy.

The screen quickly becomes filled with danger as enemies and projectiles head for your Rauser. Gravity also works against you as it constantly steals your altitude by pulling you toward the water below. This forces you to constantly make adjustments to your speed and direction to stay in flight. A final danger is the top layer of cloud cover which prevents you flying too high and can also damage your craft.

Initially you can only expect to survive for a few seconds until you get used to the controls and how things work. As you get better at controlling your Rauser each session starts to last a bit longer. Learning how each enemy works and how to beat them is essential if you want to see the enemies that come later and the final boss.

As you take damage you get audio and visual cues. Initially you’ll see particles coming off your Rauser but as it gets worse it becomes surrounded by a circle that contracts toward you and obscures your view as you take more. Fortunately your Rauser is also capable of self-repair but it can only do so while you stop shooting. This works fantastically well and gives you another layer of complexity to the gameplay. Learning how much damage you can cope with and when to stop shooting takes practice.

Luftrausers

Being a score-attack game the main thing you should be focusing on once you get better at keeping alive is your score. However to go for the big scores staying alive is only half of the battle. Each enemy you kill adds to your score multiplier up to a maximum of 20 kills. Building multiplier is easy but keeping it is tough as you only have a short time to get another kill before it resets. This gives you many difficult decisions that you need to make in a split-second. Do you risk going for a kill while damaged or retreat and lose your multiplier?

Graphically the game seems very simple with only a handful of colours and tiny silhouette sprites for most things on screen. However in motion it looks wonderful and it’s clear that a lot of time was spent on the animation and particle effects. Having the Rauser change based on your choice of parts is a really neat touch. Similarly the wonderful soundtrack by Kozilek dynamically changes based on your choices too.

Luftrausers is a tough game that is jam-packed with that addictive ‘just one more go’ quality. The controls work wonderfully and the combat is incredibly satisfying. A game might only last seconds but it’s easy to find one quick game turning into a session lasting hours. If you’re a competitive gamer or a fan of score-attack games then you simply must buy yourself a copy.

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