Vlambeer’s need to create increasingly difficult titles reminding us that we are all video game plebeians is once again complimented by their latest release. Luftrausers hails back to arcade days with simple enough mapping that it could be played with an Atari controller. The title throws you into the past not only with its arcade style but also with the atmosphere of the game. Tossing you into side-scrolling, high-flying ace combat made me feel on edge the entire time I played it. This simple blueprint for a game doesn’t stop it from being unique in its play and bringing something fantastic to what we know as games.
The game doesn’t dawdle around in getting you to the action. Like most Vlambeer titles, Luftrausers doesn’t spend a whole lot of time on the narrative but allows the player to create their own story through the world that Vlambeer provides. Players are given an aircraft known as a Rauser and then tasked with trying to achieve the highest score possible while staying alive. This proves to be no easy feat as the increasingly difficult onslaught of battleships, flying aces and the fabled blimp fight back. The highest scores are achieved by continually destroying enemies within a short amount of time. This allows the player to rack up a combo that applies a large multiplier to everything that they destroy. This sounds simple, but while trying to keep your combo up you often find yourself caught in the fire of the twin cannons attached to a battleship or the giant barrage of bullets coming from the blimp.
If you are good enough to stay alive and actually get some things accomplished you will find yourself unlocking more parts for your Rauser. This will allow you to customize your ship to use a laser as its weapon or have a stronger body to stay alive longer. None of these custom Rauser parts are straight upgrades, though. The stronger body comes with a slower ship, and the laser costs you much of your maneuverability. The greatest thing about Luftrausers is that there is no “best ship” but more of a personal preference as to what you find works best for you. Every person who plays will probably argue as to what is best and what isn’t, but really I think it’s the scores that will decide that. (Seriously, though: laser and armor body with the hover engine.)
Once you prove your worth in the standard mode of the game you will unlock SFMT mode. This relentless hardcore mode no longer ramps up slowly to challenge you, but throws you in with the most challenging enemies right from the start. Many of these enemies come with new maneuvering patterns and fight differently. I played in this mode so much that I found myself at 22nd in the world with a score of 8,725. (Let me know if you’ve got what it takes to beat that.)
The aesthetic of the the title is so appropriate for its genre: an old game style, an old game theme and classic game graphics with a little Vlambeer spin on them. The music and sound effects sound like they belong there with every bullet shot to every ship blown up. At the start of the SFMT mode an air raid siren goes off. If you can last through the entire siren you get an achievement just for that.
“This title has “Vlambeer” written all over it and is a step in the right direction for the feel of what their company produces.”
This title has “Vlambeer” written all over it and is a step in the right direction for the feel of what their company produces. Luftrausers is definitively not for everyone, but that doesn’t detract from what it is.