It’s never explicitly stated, but Luftrausers seemingly drapes the player with the uniforms of a truly dark force. There is little doubting it, in fact: yours is the task of fighting the fight of a malevolent military force that, at the very least, shares a tailor with the Nazis.

Seating the player in a cockpit of evil intent is a peculiar quirk of classic shmup design, seen in seminal releases like Under Defeat. The genre often toys with the morality of war – a devotion that parallels Hideo Kojima’s musings in the Metal Gear series.

Beyond aesthetic trappings, however, Luftrausers is quite distinct from such traditional works. It may be a 2D aeronautical game borne from the genre’s heritage – particularly where its crisp pixelated visuals and crunchy audio is concerned – but Vlambeer’s creation boldly contradicts conventions set by the heavyweight shmups.

Fundamentally a survival-focused arena shooter, it apes the controls of that gaming icon, Asteroids. Boosting builds speed, momentum gives the looping play-field a tangible quality, and rotating allows for acrobatic duelling. Gravity is also simulated, the physics of which initially furnish Luftrausers with a flabby, erratic feel. Then you learn to play it differently.

Because Luftrausers’ fighter craft control differently; they are at once graceful gliders, curious hovering contraptions, and thuggish projectiles. The controls are responsive, but the ship behaviour makes for a loose, wild game with little of the precision typical of arcade shooters.

Meanwhile the scoring uses a simple combo multiplier. Keep downing enemies and the point multiplier climbs. Hold back on firing, and health regenerates, but the combo resets. It's a brilliantly simple risk-versus-reward scoring system, somewhat undermined by the sporadic appearance of foes. All too unpredictably the skies fall silent, making combo maintenance inconsistent, introducing a shade too much luck for serious score chasing.

Instead, Luftrausers, which started life as a Flash game, includes numerous goals that encourage exploring an impressive variety of available ship customisations. Vlambeer has crafted a game that looks superb, sounds better still and is terrifically entertaining. But in a genre resplendent with elegantly refined scoring systems and mechanics, Luftrausers lands a little short of brilliance.

Version Tested: Vita. Played for 7 hours.

7 / 10

  • Sharp pixelated visuals trumped only by the excellent retro-styled crunchy audio.
  • Tremendously fun, with a wide variety of ways to play.
  • Sporadic enemy behaviour fails to compliment an otherwise robust risk-reward scoring system.
  • Lacks the purity and depth of scoring mechanics and movement seen in true arcade shmups.

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Ecosse's Avatar

Ecosse@ pblive

Another 9 here from me.
Posted 20:24 on 27 March 2014
skidoosh's Avatar

skidoosh@ pblive

I agree with you. Got it for Vita after a recommendation and I love it!
Posted 18:51 on 27 March 2014
pblive's Avatar

pblive

Personally a 9 for me. Great game with addictive tendencies.
Posted 18:36 on 27 March 2014

Game Stats

Luftrausers
7
Out of 10
Luftrausers
  • Sharp pixelated visuals trumped only by the excellent retro-styled crunchy audio.
  • Tremendously fun, with a wide variety of ways to play.
  • Sporadic enemy behaviour fails to compliment an otherwise robust risk-reward scoring system.
  • Lacks the purity and depth of scoring mechanics and movement seen in true arcade shmups.
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Release Date: 18/03/2014
Platforms: PS Vita , PS3 , PC
Developer: Vlambeer
Publisher: Vlambeer
Genre: Aerial Combat Shooter
Rating: TBC
Site Rank: 5,078 48
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