Vlambeer’s Luftrausers has not had an easy time of it. Partially due to Vlambeer’s unfortunate luck of having their games cloned, or ripped-off, wholesale by unethical clods and sold by thieves. As evidenced by both Ridiculous Fishing and Luftrausers being copied and sold by game companies that do not deserve to be mentioned, neither the results of their larceny.
Thankfully, Vlambeer was able to trudge onward and finally release the fruits of their labor back in March and it seems that they are finally receiving the credit they deserve.
It should be noted, upfront, that Luftrausers has no real story to speak of. As well it should not for reasons that become fairly evident later on. If anything, it is best described as a monochrome Asteroids in an atmosphere. Except the asteroids shoot back. In fact, everything shoots at the player. There is no reinforcements, no back up, no nothing. Just the sole Rauser* against endless waves of other rausers, jets, gun boats, and more.
Do not despair. The player has a large variety of tools at their disposal. This can be claimed to be a misnomer, as the options that the player has depends on what kind of weapon, what kind of body the Rauser has, and what kind of engine that the player can use. There is a possible 125 possible combinations of these to create a specific Rauser the players can use, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. For example; the heavy body has more health, but is heavier, resulting in lower speed. A prudent choice to use in conjunction with a Heavy Body, should one wish to use it, would be to use the Hover Engine, which renders the player’s rauser nearly immune to gravity.
It should be noted that even with all the possible options to use, it will always come down to the player being able to weave in, out, and around the almost bullet hell amounts of shots the enemy flings at the player. The instructions emphasize that the player has to know when to and when to not use the boost, or stall, in order to throw off the barrage of bullets.
Here is where the game falters slightly. The controls can and will work against the player at the seemingly most inopportune of times. Especially if it is in the middle of attempting to complete missions that are dependent upon which items are used. This makes it pointlessly difficult when attempting to complete all the missions. Granted, there is a reward for completing all of them, however, getting shot down during an attempt to shoot boats using weapons with a low rate of fire at Max combo scoring can be most irritating.
Despite this, there is a large amount of reply value to be found here. Whether it is with the aforementioned combinations of planes, each with their own individual name and variation of the theme song, or the extra hard SFMT mode which turns Luftrausers into a game that would make even the most ardent bullet hell shooter fan weep in defeat.
Which leads to another point that some combinations of aircraft are more effective at maintaining the combo meter than others. The missile launcher, mentioned earlier, can only fire four missiles at any given time. Which means that the player has to be more judicial about how and when they use them. And while they are seeking missiles, they often race to targets that are not intended and it can lead into a situation where there are no additional shots that can be taken while trying to keep the combo
The World War II fighter aesthetic also came with a few problems of its own. There were concerns raised about the player being a Nazi pilot, given the designs of the characters, it is a bit unusual to see. Even an antagonist, whom is briefly seen, bears a resemblance to Winston Churchill. Thankfully, Rami Ismail, one of the two people that comprise Vlambeer, was able to address the concerns and even speak about the nature of creativity and the need for real critical thought in its inspirations and criticism.
That being said, Luftrausers’ faults are not as numerous as its many things it does right. There are only four buttons to use; fire, boost, left turn, and right turn. This results in the controls being tight. It gives the same feeling of playing the arcade games of the 1980s, where a Saturday would be spent with a pocket full of saved quarters to get that ever so elusive high score. The sheer brutality of the AI is a reminder that it is a good thing certain companies do not charge for individual plays for games like they did in the arcades with their arbitrary increased difficulty to acquire more quarters from the playerbase. Yet.
Overall, Luftrausers is worth the price it is asking for. It is not a perfect game and, to the game’s detriment, the difficulty can be an obstacle to some. However, this can be overcome and with enough practice to acquire the final secret which would make all the failed missions beforehand all the more worth it.
*Rauser, despite sounding German, is not a real German word.