Any game to be reviewed is often in front of me as the review is written in order to reference the combat or interactive systems the game offers. Luftrausers makes this especially easy – the cross-buy places the game on both the Vita and PS3, systems normally in reach at any time; but at this moment the PS3 is off and the Vita is tucked away. This is not a negative reflection on Luftrausers. The game is so easy to get into and fun to play if either system were turned on this review would not get written.
Ease of use is how Luftrausers brings in its audience. Players launch from a submarine and are thrust into Luftrausers’ sepia skies. Pushing up on the analog or d-pad engages thrust, while left or right turns the craft accordingly. ‘X’ fires the equipped weapon, and when damaged the only way to recover is to stop firing and fly. Fly too high into the cloud cover and damage is taken. Fly too low into the ocean and damage is taken. Get hit by enemies or their weapons and damage is taken. Gameplay only ends upon death and becomes more difficult the longer a player lives, so the goal of the game is to chain together kills and rack up points until you die. It plays much like a reinvented Time Pilot on a level from Defender.
Every time a player dies the results screen shows up. The first time players view this screen they will see missions at the bottom. Missions are mostly “kill X enemy in Y way” or score a certain number of points, but completing missions and ranking up unlocks new parts for your craft. There are three parts which make up the planes – a weapon, a body, and an engine – and each part has different missions to fulfill. The lab is accessible once players gain their first extra part, and is accessible from the results screen ever time thereafter. There are 125 Luftrauser combinations to unlock, and each one plays differently. Engines affect speed, bodies affect health or add weapons, and weapons are simple yet freaking awesome. Continual-fire lasers will never get old.
Bodies are the most interesting part of a craft and tend to have the greatest impact on gameplay. For instance, the melee body does not have a lot of health but does not take damage from colliding with enemies either – and collisions are excellent ways to take out small craft normally. The bomb body drops occasional bombs as the player fires, but it is the nuke body which absolutely makes any day. Upon dying, the nuke body kills everything on the screen. The first time this happens and players see the ash skull form from their defeated metal carcass is like poetry. And doing this is a valid way to complete missions.
It’s not just the fun weapons and gameplay, but the ability to combine all three options efficiently. The melee body may be the weakest but it is immune to collision and players regenerate by flying. Combine it with the underwater engine and your craft can fly through boats and destroy them before ducking into the water to regenerate health and dodge bullets. The combinations available may not be limitless but there is a play style waiting for players among them. The associated missions also reward players for trying out parts.
Gameplay, as stated above, only gets harder until you die. The longer a player lives the more enemies and enemy types show up to kill them. Upper levels of difficulty are extremely challenging. Players will need trial and error to find the right craft to survive as long as possible. Gameplay is very smooth across both PS3 and Vita, and the game plays exactly the same on both systems. Saves are, as far as I can tell, not transferable between the two but trophies are shared. And really, not sharing saves is no big deal – the game goes by so quickly players will be caught up in very little time on either system.
Luftrausers uses a lot of sprite artwork in the game itself. While the player’s craft and enemies appear to be sprite based as well; the sprites are either very well done or 3D models are being used very well. All of the aircraft and ships are silhouetted against the background to help simulate smoothness.Bullet effects are bright and easily seen. Color filters unlock as players accumulate skulls from missions or rank up. These filters range from black and white to a bad trip. The game gets a little spotty when the nuke goes off as the all of enemies are destroyed and their point values tally up, but thankfully there is a giant ash skull in the center of the screen for your enjoyment.
Luftrausers is candy for your mind and hands. Don’t let any hesitation over its presentation keep you from trying an insanely fun and easily addictive game. If you have the chance to play it; play it. Luftrausers is one of – if not the – best pick up and play titles available.
Review copy provided by publisher