Taking to the Skies in Luftrausers

Vlambeer is a studio that first caught my attention in 2010 with Super Crate Box. Super Crate Box was an addicting little single screen platformer where you destroy herds of cartoon skulls with legs. It was dynamic; a varied arsenal of weaponry providing a catalog of explosions made shooting cartoons fun for hours. More recently, hearing about Luftrausers had my mouth watering for more of that stuff that makes games addictive. Dogfighting from the guys who made Super Crate Box? Where do I sign up? When I finally got to play LUFTRAUSERS, I accepted the possibility I’d need an intervention.

My first few flights were grim, and I was a little confused. LUFTRAUSERS plays a bit like Geometry Wars would if it had gravity. Those who can’t stay in the air are met with a watery death. Once adjusted to the new environment, however, control begins to feel really natural and the gameplay blossoms. That confusion turned to ambition as I was now determined to destroy the giant battleship encroaching my territory.

LUFTRAUSERS provides many challenging targets to fire upon. I often found myself trying to best a particular enemy rather than beat my high score. Getting a high score means maintaining your multiplier by killing something every few seconds– for as long as you last. Not so difficult if you stay focused, however the big payout comes from killing larger targets while your multiplier is maxed. Larger targets of course take more hits, so you risk losing your multiplier. At that point the payout isn’t so good. However, destroying a battleship for the first time fills the screen with sepia explosions and is extremely satisfying.

The good news is that as you accumulate points over several games, the game will provide you with new tools for keeping your multiplier up. Finishing missions unlocks new weapons, hulls, and engines to mix and match to customize your luftrauser. The parts provide over 100 different ship configurations, opening up a wide variety of potential play styles.

Like its gameplay, LUFTRAUSERS’ visual style is unique. The graphics are almost silhouettes, sepia by default. The attention paid to the avatar is appreciated, as it is never difficult to decipher which direction you’re flying. The sound is great too, DJ Kozilek has provided a huge and energetic soundtrack that will keep your blood pumping through every encounter.

I give this game high praise. It’s simple, its innovative, and most important its fun as all hell. LUFTRAUSERS is a fantastic effort from a great studio, and I’m looking forward to reviewing more from Vlambeer (keep an eye out for Nuclear Throne). For now, I’m pretty addicted to the barrel rolls and crossfire. Until that intervention comes, you can find me trying to kill battleships with a max multiplier…

Oh, and did I mention this great little arcade masterpiece is on sale on Steam right now for $2.49? Only ’til March 7th, definitely an offer worth redeeming.