Luftrausers doesn’t portray much of a story, therefore I won’t give it an official score but I will use it as an opportunity to explain the premise of sorts. Basically you are an Air Force pilot who is based on a submarine. As each battle begins you are launched from the sub onto a horizontal view on a 2-D plain over a vast ocean, with the ocean and skies as your only barriers. You are then tasked to destroy the enemies you encounter during your round. Enemies come at you from all directions, large and small, by sea and by air.
First of all you may have noticed that Devolver Digital published this game. Prior to my knowledge of this, I had already associated the games strong soundtrack with the engaging and invigorating styles of Hotline Miami (a game also published by Devolver Digital), so clearly there was a very positive influence from the publishers. For Luftrausers’ soundtrack nothing changes, each song is a strong, powerful motivating force with a hint of techno/light dub-step. Overall I feel the soundtrack was a great accompanying feature to the game, heightening the experience.
Visually, a basic colour palette of browns, blacks, creams and white make up this vastly detailed pixelated game. This was an absolute pleasure to look at.
When I first picked up Luftrausers, I naively expected it to play out like a twin-stick shooter, naivety at its finest. Controlling your aircraft is used only with the left thumb-stick, which steers and rotates as you command it; it also has a speed boost that engages when you press the thumb-stick in the direction you are already travelling. On paper it may sound like a simple mechanic but really it has quite a steep learning curve, that once mastered becomes a fluent joyful process to destroy the opposition.
This game is extremely lenient to the players, offering a world of opportunity and chances to create your own luck. As I mentioned before in the story section, the skies and seas are your boundaries, but only to an extent; your plane is able to take a quick dip into the ocean or soar into the clouds to inflict some damage on a resting enemy or just to simply use it as a sharp turning circle; although at the expense of health.
Accumulating points is the sole means of progression and unlocking upgrades. Points come in bountiful amounts provided you can keep your points multiplier alive; one multiplier point per enemy destroyed then maxing out at 20 (each unique enemy destroyed earns you the various points to be multiplied). The difficulty in this stems from the fact that your aircraft can receive copious amounts of damage but can only recover when you are not firing, so it becomes a sort of balancing act between increasing/maintaining your multiplier and keeping your health up.
Earning points rewards the player with new variations to the aircraft, weapons, body frame and engine. There are multiple variants across all three categories including laser beams, a frame that is a nuke and explodes destroying all your adversaries when you die and a water resistant engine, for example. Each variant in their respective category open up increasingly difficult challenges to earn more points and unlock further forms of aircraft.
The beauty of this and the real testament to “create(ing) your own luck” is that you can change any of the three variants to overcome said challenges. For example, let’s say you have the laser beam wielding, water resistant, nuke combination I mentioned earlier and you are challenged with destroying 20 airborne enemies in 30 seconds. Inevitably the direct focused beam of the slow moving nuke isn’t going to cut it for that, changing those two variables to a wider spread shotgun sort of weapon and a lighter quick and nimble frame increases your ability to complete the task. Many combinations can be created to succeed in the challenges thrown at you.