Devolver Digital has been bringing Luftrausers to conventions for a while now. It feels like it has been the better part of a year since I first put my hands on it and finally we are able to review the game in full. Vlambeer has become something of an indie success story after his back-to-back hits Super Crate Box, Hotline Miami, and Ridiculous Fishing. Much like Ridiculous Fishing, Luftrausers is actually a remake of what was one of the earlier titles in Vlambeer’s career. The game was originally crafted to be sold as a flash game, but publishers rejected it citing that it was, as Vlambeer would later go on to say, “too ‘monochrome’, too ‘extreme’ or too ‘difficult’.”
Instead of just looking at it as a loss, they went back to the well a few years later and decided to make it even better. So, after a while of already knowing the game was better at each con I went to, let’s see how good this game actually turned out to be.
For those that haven’t seen the demo and haven’t had the opportunity to run out to a convention that Devolver Digital has also shown up at this past year, Luftrausers is a shmup that chooses to do things a bit differently. For starters, there are no levels in this game. There is just the one that you’ll see in the screenshot above. That’s all you need. If perchance that gold, white and maroon background doesn’t suit you– tough; you’ll have to play through the game to unlock more monochrome colors.
Since Devolver Digital is a publisher that focuses on bringing out games with fun at the forefront of everything, that is what you have here. Luftrausers is a game that increases its difficulty as you proceed forward. It lets you get used to what you are doing by taking flight and facing a few small fighter jets. Once you start racking up kills and combinations, the game starts introducing more enemies. You’ll then face Boats, Battleships, and even Blimps. All while still commanding the same ship from the beginning. Thankfully your fighter can auto restore when you aren’t shooting. This works well in case you want to kamikaze your plane into others. Unfortunately, you’ll have to stop shooting while everything but the kitchen sink is being thrown at you. Not an easy thing to do.
To test out the game’s progression-based difficulty curve, I gave the game to my young daughter to play with. Without using her weapons, she was able to fly around for a good while doing loop-de-loops and dive-bombing the sea and the skies without a care in the world. At no point was she ever really in any danger that she didn’t put herself in. I would then take over after a bit and, as soon as I racked up the kills, it got hectic again. This progression in difficulty works well to keep the game challenging as you work towards the game’s goals.
Luftrausers would be fun on its own, but the mission-based upgrades are what grab you and keep you playing. You are equipped with a weapon, a body type, and an engine, and are required to complete missions to unlock new weapons, body types and engines. These different plane parts do a wonderful job of changing up the types of attack your plane will achieve and the effectiveness of said attack. The missions steadily grow more and more difficult as you work yourself up to taking down Blimps.
Everything about the game builds upon itself until you finally hit your challenge point. Then you have to retry it all again to advance further. The weapons are fun and unique, the battles get chaotic, and the enemies are all as creative as they are overwhelming.
Luftrausers will kindly reward you each time you approach it. It really does work well for both long and short plays and should be marveled at for its excellent pixel graphics and focus on gameplay. Of course, it is difficult at times, and can be frustrating as you try to reach the next big goal, but that’s where the game really shines. For those that enjoy games that legitimately work to kill you, Luftrausers should be a part of your collection.
Luftrauser was too difficult, extreme, and monochrome for some and I’m happy to report that this remake does absolutely nothing to address these issues, but rather only expands upon them gloriously.
[+Great Pixel Graphics] [+Chaotic Gameplay] [+Solid Progression System] [+Unlockables] [+Replayable]