Even in the darkest days of the seventh-generation shooter obsession, it was rare to see a game composed entirely in brown. They usually had grey and red for all the blood, too. But that’s what Luftrausers, the newest game from Dutch developers Vlambeer, has done. And bloody good it is too.
The essence of Luftrausersis a side-on flight game focusing on arcade-style combat within a world populated by things trying to kill you. Controlling much like Asteroids, the player must dodge an ever-increasing quantity of bullets while shooting down first small aircraft, then later submarines, battleships and enormous blimps.
It’s comparatively simple gameplay, and games are short, rarely longer than a couple of minutes. While health can be recharged simply by flying the craft around without shooting, it becomes nearly impossible to keep this up forever after the bigger craft start being thrown into the mix. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The game’s simplicity (it does not, for example, have power ups) is offset by its ‘one more go’ factor and the speed with which the player can restart once they die.
The player’s craft can be upgraded in between missions once they unlock extra modules, done by completing challenges set for each game. There are only three kinds of unlockable module – weapon, body and engine – and the selection for each is somewhat lacking, but the number of combinations is high enough to experiment in some interesting ways.
The game is presented in faux-retro style, with low resolution sprites and quite attractive 2D menus being the order of the day. While this is indeed an attractive approach, the colour scheme is quite puzzling. There’s simply no reason for it to be so drab and brown. Traditional bullet hell shooters have been circuses of colour, and not merely for aesthetic purposes. A vibrant colour palette helps differentiate enemy types and types of attack, which can often be difficult in a crowded environment full of enemies which are all the same dark brown.
While the gameplay is perfectly good, the presentation (including a lacklustre soundtrack) leaves a lot to be desired. However, for a cheap game with interesting mechanics (combining a physics based 2D shooter with bullet-hell style arcade gameplay) it’s easy to overlook those shortcomings. Available for PC and Sony systems, Luftrausers is well worth playing if you like quick, addictive thrills. 80%