LUFTRAUSERS is a shoot’em up, or an aerial dogfighting game, where you get to make a plane out of 3 parts (weapon, body, engine) making up 125 combinations, each with a different audio track (I assume they have 3 layers/parts, for each bit) – I personally like the nuke body (where you blow up when you die, but take extra damage from collisions) the best.
This game is elegant, there are a total of four buttons you can click: Right, left, up (accelerate) and “Shoot”. Nothing else. Actually, the game has 6 buttons. Right, left, pressing on accelerate, not-pressing on accelerate, pressing to shoot, and not-pressing to shoot. While it seems weird for me to note these, as we don’t talk of “not shooting” as a button in most games, there the choice is often what to shoot, or how else to circumvent an enemy (Stealth games).
In Luftrausers, shooting, bombing, or ramming into enemies is the only way to kill them. It’s a game with endless fuel and ammo, so why won’t you keep your finger on the trigger and the pedal? What is there to stop you? I say “Stop”, but part of the elegance of Luftrausers’ design is that not pressing a button can even free you. In this game, when you take damage, you stay damaged until you repair it by not shooting. When you don’t shoot, your plane keeps repairing itself, making “Shooting versus not shooting” not as much a decision of “Which?” but “When?”, and better players who can avoid being shot at, can also shoot longer without pause.
Acceleration though is the real kicker. Not pressing the acceleration button is what makes this game so much fun to play, and why I could see myself having fun just piloting my plane in a world-exploration type of game. You see, when you keep your finger on up and try to make a turn, it’d take you quite a circle, and if you’re trying to end up behind the many planes dogging you, it can be quite a hassle. Or you can just let go.
You know that part in dogdighting films where someone “hits the brakes” so to speak, and end up behind those who chase them? Letting go of acceleration fulfills that fantasy. Not only that, but when you let go, you can turn around and shoot those behind you with ease. You slowly fall down to the water, but until you do, you feel more in control, by letting go. I enjoy the most that early part of the game, where I spend half my time gaining altitude, and the other half just free-falling while wheeling around and dealing death.
You can tell the game gets to the harder parts when you have to keep thrusting and managing the thrust and shooting versus not just to remain alive. Even there, the game feels “fair”, as most enemies need to re-orient themselves before shooting, and have a cooldown period between shots. I still hadn’t defeated the zeppelin or the mysterious ??? which shoots lasers from the clouds, but I will not stop trying. There is a lot of replayability, in trying to complete missions, or achieve goals, while certain parts can make reaching these milestones easier, others can help you with actually accomplishing them.
The game runs for $10 on PS3/Vita, or on Steam for the PC. I wasn’t sure it’d be worth the cost, so didn’t purchase it, until a friend had purchased it for me. I have spent well over ten hours on this game, easily passing the “$1 for 1 hour” test of ultimate worth. I like the game enough, and it’s so good in small bursts, that I’ll probably buy it on the Vita as well when it’s on a 50% sale.
I give this game 8/10. It’s a small game, but you can either play it for 5-10 minutes at a time, or easily lose yourself in it for several hours, as I have. It’s an elegant game designed around the “void” of not pressing buttons, and it feels like freedom.