Sony’s push for independent games on PlayStation Network is quite remarkable, as the company is looking to give those with less-than-favorable development budgets the opportunity to let their work shine on its digital platform. Thanks to the Indie Pub Fund, the PS3 and PlayStation Vita will soon be home to such would-be hits as DiveKick and Hotline Miami. But there’s something special about Luftrausers, the latest effort from Vlambeer, the same studio that produced Super Crate Box and the insanely entertaining mobile game Ridiculous Fishing.
We had a chance to go hands-on with Luftrausers at the PAX East event in Boston, where the game was on full display at the indie game booth. Creator Rami Ismail was on hand to walk us through it, a game that resembles classic multi-direction shooters of old, with no shortage of chaos on hand, and a whole lot of customization to boot.
In the game, you’re a lone gun, thrust into the air with a jet of choice and given the mission to obliterate as many targets as you can. The primary ones that you’ll go after first are the huge, heavily armed battleships, because they’re worth the most points, but you can also take out enemy airships that are flailing gunfire your way, as well as smaller boats that pose a threat to your aircraft. You can only take so much damage from gunfire, so you’ll need to work through each match-up as quick as you can, racking up a number of kills and boosting your score well into the thousands.
Luftrausers feels like an old-school “twitch” shooter, yet has an impeccable graphic style that somehow meshes classic sprites from the Atari 2600 days (we kept thinking Combat for some reason) with contemporary visual effects, including vivid weapon, smoke and explosion effects. This style really represents well throughout the game, as it’s easy to keep an eye on your aerial vehicle while blasting others to smithereens. The action never gets out-of-control to the point that you lose track of anything.
As for the gameplay, it works mostly with a one-analog stick system for flight. So if you want to fly up, you hold it up – that sort of thing. While a dual-stick system probably would’ve been a better choice for certain players, the single set-up works just as well, enabling you to swivel around with ease and gun down enemies. It almost reminded us of the old Konami game Time Pilot, but with far more enemies, and the ability to pick up multipliers to increase your score.
What’s great about Luftrausers is being able to pick and choose what your craft will be capable of in three categories – what kind of craft you’re flying, what kind of weapon works best for it, and what kind of special ability you’ll be packing. Before taking off into each stage, you’ll be able to go through a “wheelhouse” menu, where you can mix and match your choices.
Aerial vehicles range from smaller, speedier craft to bigger, hulkier ones that can take a bit more damage. It really depends on what kind of flight experience you’re in the mood for, but all of them are quite serviceable when it comes to dishing out damage to both ground and aerial targets.
As for weapons, there are a variety to choose from, including machine guns, laser blasts (which resemble huge white-ish pellets) and seeking missiles. Each one has their own special effect in the game, so no matter which one you choose, you can really put the hurt on someone. The option to play around and see what works right for you is fully recommended, if only to see what all the game has to offer.
We only got to see a few of the power-ups, so we can’t really comment too much on those, but, including these, you have 125 possible combinations to play around with, so you’re sure to find a favorite.
Though the gameplay remains quite simple in Luftrausers, maneuverability is certainly an asset. Being able to swing your vehicle around for another pass on a battleship – or a run through an armada of flying foes – is a dynamic asset, as you’ll want to keep moving in order to avoid taking gunfire. In some cases, you can even slip underwater, then pop out at the last minute and unload a barrage of bullets on a ship to send it sinking into the ocean. The game comes with a tremendous amount of strategy, even if it is, in nature, a “twitch” arcade shooter.
Luftrausers will make quite the addition to the PSN library when it releases later this month, and the fact you can take it on the go via the PS Vita is excellent as well, though we’re still waiting for confirmation on whether the game will support Cross-Buy on both platforms. Check out this trailer to see more of the game in action, then pick a plane and let your fury freak fly.