Luftrausers: Review - Games Weekly

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Luftrausers: Review

Weeks after this comically intense 2D dogfighter came out, there was a brief outrage. You see, this game with the German name and the instantly recognisable SS character art this game, with the theme of experimental tech so enduringly linked with Hitler in history and videogames, and the rousing military soundtrack that a Wagner born in 1970 would have sternly crushed out of an SID chip this game might have you playing as a Nazi. Imagine the horror of not playing the good guys, in the last war that fit Peter Molyneux’s binary interpretation of human morality!


And yet, Luftrausers’ aesthetic left me so profoundly unoffended that I had to tap my outrage barometer. I did that by whispering “the gender pay gap is the natural and just result of genetic differences between men and women” into a rubber tube piped into my own ear. Sure enough, my knee-flex fury had caused me to tell two Men’s Rights Activists to kill themselves on Twitter before I had a chance to jam a paper clip into the reset button. So, yeah. I must have a moral blind spot for Nazis.

Game. I’m reviewing a game here. Luftrausers should get boring quickly. Even with Vlambeer's perfect pixellated gunblams, and using the superb caress of gravity to pummel an arc of carnage through a flock of enemy planes, the basic Asteroids action is simple enough to get old, sharpish. Especially as there are no upgrades or power ups, once you’ve launched your ship.

Those upgrades are in the pre launch hangar: five guns that change the spread, speed and focus of your attack. Five bodies that give you extra health, or eliminate collision damage, so you can use your plane as a melee hammer. And five engines that, for example, let you dive underwater or defy gravity. That’s 125 combinations, each one lovingly named, and each requiring a subtly different style of attack and defence. Each plane part has its own musical theme, so you’ll not only find your
favourite craft, but your favourite musical combo.

Experts might be thinking: wait, there are SIX options. and 216 combinations. Well yes, but I haven’t unlocked those yet, and I blame Luftrausers for that. Every game is so volcanically short, and the combo score multiplier so unforgiving, that a game can feel over before long before your ship is destroyed. Losing a 20x max combo is a failure as profoundly defeating as death, and frequently, I just couldn't find an enemy plane or boat in time. Maybe if the combo had stepped down, instead of reset, I wouldn't have started every game of Luftrausers with the anticipation of the dread of playing a dead game walking.

Luftrausersis a fantastic burst of action, that’ll grip you for at least as long as it takes to unlock the superhard mode. After that, well. It’s just a matter of how stubborn and wilfully hardcore you are.

8/10

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