Monday, May 26, 2014

Game Review: Luftrausers

Luftrausers is a 2D shooting game in which you fly a plane with some pretty interesting controls and... you know what? You can play the free flash version, Luftrauser, right now to get the gist of it.

Go ahead and play that for a few minutes. It's well worth your time. If it strikes your fancy, come on back and I'll talk about the full version which came out recently.

In case you couldn't play the flash version, I'll sum it up: you fly around shooting waves and waves of enemy planes, boats, and battleships, taking out as many as you can before you inevitably die. The controls are very simple: you can rotate clockwise or counter-clockwise, move by activating your thrusters, and shoot your machine gun. If your thrusters are off, momentum and gravity take over until you use them again. Everything takes place in between the ocean below and the dangerous, cloudy altitudes above. The main tactical decision to make is when to stop firing your gun, since your plane repairs damage when you're not firing.

The paid version is exactly all of that, but with more: you have specific missions, more types of enemies, and unlockable parts you can use to customize your plane.

The missions are varied, and include simple tasks like "kill 30 enemies" and "destroy a boat" as well as more complex tasks like "destroy 10 enemies in a row without turning off your thrusters." Fulfilling missions unlocks more missions and unlocks new parts for your plane.

The new enemies include larger, more dangerous planes that can move just like your luftrauser, submarines that fire missiles at your, and large blimps brimming with weapons that are incredibly tough to kill.

The unloackable parts for your plane are all "sidegrades" that have complications to balance their benefits. They allow you to customize your weapons, the body of your plane, and the engine. For instance, there's a laser weapon that can replace your machine gun, but your turning speed is reduced dramatically as long as you're firing it. The body has options ranging from a bulky body that can take more hits in exchange for speed to a body that automatically drops torpedoes in exchange for slower recovery. The engines offer abilities like an engine powered by bullets, which constantly fire behind you in exchange for an uneven thrust, or a high-powered jet that makes it difficult to turn.

The paid version also has subtly upgraded graphics, which helps to keep track of your score and gives you a better idea of your plane's health.

The visuals are simple and effective, with a compelling color scheme that gives the game a lot of charm. The music is also compelling, and the paid version has a variety: each plane part changes the music slightly, so with 125 different possible plane combinations, there's 125 subtly different music tracks.

The game is tough, but it plays very smooth and it does a great job of making you feel like a destructive badass. As the folks at Vlambeer noted, the game was designed at an angry time for them, right as they were dealing with people making clones of their game Ridiculous Fishing. They were angry, and that anger comes through in Luftrausers.

That said, I'm not really one to blow off steam often, but I can enjoy the game if I need a quick escape. I think you'll enjoy it too.

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