Luftrausers is a game that I had many opportunities to try, heard nothing but positive buzz about, yet somehow managed to completely avoid. All I knew was that it was developed by Vlambeer, the Ridiculous Fishing people and published by Hotline Miami publishers, Devolver Digital. On a whim, I gave the game a chance, and now as I sit, two days later with over nine hours of gameplay in, I’ve barely scratched the halfway point of this incredibly challenging and addictive bullet hell shooter.
Just like Vlambeer’s previous game, Ridiculous Fishing, Luftrausers looks very simple on the surface, but the depth is revealed after just a few minutes of gameplay. It didn’t come out of the ether either, Vlambeer had previously put together a small browser game called Luftrauser and while it is fun, it doesn’t hold a candle to the expansive game they have spent so much time crafting that browser game into. Luftrausers takes the simplistic arcade action of the original and layers on unlockable parts for your fighter plane and more missions than you’ll know what to do with.
Luftrausers (PS Vita, PS3, PC [Reviewed])
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Release: March 18, 2014
Every round of Luftrausers begins the same, you launch off a ship to take on the hordes of planes, boats and other deadly tools of war. What follows will be between 10 seconds and maybe five minutes of intense action as you attempt to blow everything out of the sky and water while avoiding the constant stream of bullets that will eventually fill the screen. As a result, you will die, quite often. What keeps you going isn’t a simple score to overcome, but mission after mission that will unlock new parts to outfit your plane and change your playstyle or simply yet another thing to accomplish.
What stops Luftrausers from becoming another endless runner or similar mobile style game is the ramp-up on its difficulty. Every death, every flaming wreckage that was once my plane was completely my fault. I turned too sharp I didn’t turn sharp enough. I tried to take out a blimp with a melee body and ignored the damage I was taking. I wasn’t being presented with a no-win scenario only meant to push me as far as I could go, instead I was given an incredibly challenging set of circumstances and a system that I could actually finish.
It’s that end goal that kept bringing me back in spite of the fact that I found myself beating my head against the wall when it comes to the last few normal missions and the ultra-difficult SFMT mode. I just needed to try a new part combo so I could finish the next goal and hear just a few more seconds of the fantastic soundtrack. I can get better, can’t I? Even then, I can see my failures as a result of my own skill level, not a cruel difficulty curve.
Luftrausers is one of the first games I’ve played in the era of iOS that really brought me back to the golden days of the arcade. It’s simple enough that you can pick it up and instantly know what to do, but the array of parts and missions give it the depth that so many arcade games lack. Vlambeer has proven yet again that they know how to make a fun, action-packed game that will sink its claws into you, dragging you away from ‘bigger’ games just so you can have one more run.