By: Casey Curran
If you told me that Luftrausers was a port of an old arcade game with a few bells and whistles added, I would have believed you instantly. The game has a very simple, old school appeal with even a few retro shortcomings in the way. However, it adds a few little touches that cannot exist in an arcade game, which ends up giving it a few extra legs.
The best way to describe the game’s controls would be a much faster paced version of Ecco the Dolphin. The controls have sort of an awkward feel like Ecco where turning takes a little too long and doesn’t offer quite enough control. This occasionally makes aerial combat more difficult than it should be, as I would often plummet straight into the water. However, with time I did get used to these controls, albeit with some minor hiccups.
Luftrausers is something of a cautionary tale on being careful on what you emulate if you want a retro aesthetic. It is pretty apparent that the game is trying very hard to imitate a 2600 game, with ships and planes consisting of only one color and backgrounds all very basic. However, when that is combined with a color scheme ripped straight from an original Gameboy game, the result is that nothing really looking visually pleasing. I can see the retro vibe they were going for, it just does not work out. Sound effects and music at least work well and do their intended jobs, though they don’t offer anything too spectacular.
Luftrausers has a very simple gameplay hook: destroy everything you can before you blow up. There is no time limit or restrictions in how you need to play, just aerial combat against a variety of enemies trying to get the highest score possible. At least in regards to the core gameplay goals. The game also employs a variety of extra objectives such as taking out a certain number of enemies or getting a certain score. These goals carry over between games, so if you blow up three ships in one match and two in another, you will meet the goal of blowing up five ships.
Completing these objectives allows you to gain new parts, which let you tweak your plane into a style of your choosing. These let you alter both your ship’s speed and weapon systems, each one offering its own perks and shortcomings. A bulky ship body, for instance, may not maneuver as fluidly as one that is not as durable.
Acquiring ship upgrades and completing the objectives are ultimately what keeps the game compelling. While there are a high number of objectives, which get harder at a steady rate, the upgrade system leaves a little to be desired. Simply put, there are too few parts to pick between, which keep them from staying interesting as the game progresses. While each feels different, as time went on I was not having enough fun to justify completing every objective. Adding more ship parts could have very easily helped the game stay fresh.
Luftrausers will have a very strong appeal to any fan of classic arcade games, especially those who want these games to offer a few bonus extras outside the core gameplay. To those who usually feel satisfied after a few games from an arcade machine, however, it may not provide enough to hold the player’s interest.