There is something about the setting of the early to mid 20th century that somehow makes for some pretty good video games. For instance, there’s Papers, Please that puts you in the shoes of someone working for a scary communist regime, albeit a fictional one. There had been a ton of World War II games in the past, including the origins of the now modern Call of Duty and Battlefield series. There were also some arcade classics such as Striker 1945 that brought the classic vertical shoot-em-up to the 1940′s. Here’s a game that takes from that classic shoot-em-up and gives it one hell of a twist.
Luftrausers is an arcade-style game made by Vlambeer and published by Devolver Digital, who also released the 2012 hit top-down shooter Hotline Miami. This time, you play from a sidescrolling perspective as a pilot of a WW2-era fighter plane in the middle of the sea, and your mission is to shoot down enemy planes and ships. The kicker is that you are fighting against gravity as you nosedive when you let go of the directional buttons, so you have to keep your plane up and dodge projectiles and incoming planes that are looking to take you out.
You’ll immediately notice that it’s not exactly a game that calls for an uber-powerful hardware as it works off 8-bit looking graphics in a two-tone color scheme, reminiscent of the Atari era but with a bit more detail. The animations are reasonably smooth, and the projectiles and effects are distinct enough so that you can distinguish between various objects on screen. That’s crucial in this game as there is quite a bit of a bullet hell element in the gameplay once there are a lot of enemies in the game. It’s a game that demands a good bit of skill, so time and patience is needed to play it properly.
As for the soundtrack, it’s full of music that fits the setting and unique style of the game. Considering that Hotline Miami had been really good in this department, there’s no suprise that Devolver had the same done for this game as well. You can try to climb up to the clouds until you hit them, then go into a nosedive to fire upon the enemy, then pull up at the last second in a daredevil maneuver that used to be possible only in flight combat games like Ace Combat and Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. You take out enemies to end up fighting more enemies, so things can get crazy very quickly, which is kind of the point of this game.
Once you do get good in this game though, other shoot-em-ups can become much easier for you since you can gain the eye for seeing the important details amidst the chaos with projectiles and enemies flying about. The consistent and rewarding progression system gives this game a good bit of replay value. When you do eventually get killed and come up with a really good score, you get to unlock upgrades and achievements. However, there are some upgrades that seemingly don’t really serve much purpose other than take up your time and effort, so you may have to sift through them to get the good upgrades that will help you in the long run.
Even when you’ve been getting better at playing the game, the difficulty then goes up and more enemies come at you as you gain more levels to keep things challenging. The whole stalling mechanic reminds a bit of Flappy Bird, which seems to be something that we’ll see more in games these days. The difference between the two though is that you’re up against enemies that attack you instead of just static obstacles, but they both provide challenge throughout gameplay.
While we wait for Hotline Miami 2 to come out, this game kind of fills a void for Devolver Digital, and they’ve done a good job here. Luftrausers is a very good arcade-style game that combines style, lightness, and challenge, whether you play it with a keyboard or a gamepad.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 8.5/10