Print Edition: April 9, 2014
Something about the idea of aviation calls to my inner five-year-old who dreamed of being a jet pilot or an astronaut.
But since I can’t comprehend advanced physics, and my eyes have been deemed uneven, I’m stuck with playing games instead. There are many times I can remember playing classic top-down shooters at Playdium and being beaten before the second level. The concept of high flying acrobatics, high-risk manoeuvres and over the top speeds always drew me in even if I was wasting my quarters. But sometimes, one game would get through and I would thoroughly enjoy playing it over and over.
Luftrausers, unfortunately, is not one of those games.
Luftrausers, developed by Devolver Digital, is a 2D game that has its own spin on the WWII era.
The German military characters look like evil Pep Boys, while the overall art is a cartoonish Luftwaffe style, which adds that slight humour common to these types of indie games. The pixel art hearkens back to the Atari-era; all dark shadows against a reddish beige sky. The planes have no streaks or colour augmentations; they are simply different shapes. This makes it easy to distinguish the types you have to fight.
The design also features a make it or break it gimmick. Completely bending the rules of common aviation physics, instead of flying, you glide through the air as you take on different forms of aircrafts and sea ships. This is very similar to the movement in the original Asteroid games. The bending of flight thrust in Luftrausers is also reminiscent of gameplay from Ubisoft’s Hawx series. Zero G movement sequences would make you hurl all over your cockpit, but in these games, it heightens the experience and makes it much more fun.
The planes are also customizable — my plane was able to fly underwater as well as smash into enemies without suffering damage. Other upgrades include increased health, complete zero gravity manoeuvring, or another favourite of mine, making your plane a literal atomic bomb.
But Luftrausers’ simplicity is also its downfall. While I did enjoy my time playing it, I became bored very quickly as it only takes an hour to unlock all the main customizations. It’s an arcade game with not much payoff. I can honestly say I will forget I bought it a week from now.
This game was obviously made with nostalgia and 16-bit lovers in mind — a style that has become an unstoppable trend in the indie market. Perhaps that’s where my negative feelings come from. What began as a welcome resurgence has become an overused product. You can’t scroll through any selection without coming across a game sporting 16-bit graphics.
Luftrausers could work for you. I know however that I will probably not play this game again.