Now, I know what you might be thinking, people who have been reading my column as of late: “What happened to Papers, Please?” No, this isn’t Papers, Please but the moment I picked this game up, I couldn’t put it down.
Bullet hells are not my favorite kind of game, but boy, oh boy did I have a blast with Luftrausers. If you were wondering, “Luftrausers” isn’t German for anything. Actually, while “Luft” stands for air, “Rausers” doesn’t mean anything. Actually, Google doesn’t even know what it is, so they grabbed the latest review of the game and plopped that on as the definition.
Luftrausers is a bullet hell aviation game made by the guys who also made Super Crate Box and Ridiculous Fishing. You play as the lucky dude who gets to ride in the greatest fighter jet. Problem is, the world wants to kill you. Unlike other planes in the game, you can stop and make 180s, repair yourself by not shooting, and boost your speed as many times as you want.
I hope you understand that the world wants to kill you. In other words, this game is difficult. From opposing fighter jets to battleships, destroyers, blimps, and giant spaceships, the whole world seems to hate you. The world is so jealous of your awesome aircraft that they want you dead. Enemies litter the screen. Bullets whiz past your plane. Explosions spark through the clouds.
There is no other game out this year that is as fun as Luftrausers. I feel like an awesome fighter pilot. Enemies are difficult enough to make me feel powerful when they blow up. There is high tension going through the game whenever a spray of bullets head in my direction. But I don’t have to worry because I have the most awesome fighter jet in the world. Nothing can stop me, until I die.
Luftrausers is also one of the most customizable games I have played this year. With 5 core body types, 5 core weapon types, and 5 core engine types, there are 125 different combinations of fighters to pick and choose from. You can pretend you’re a crazy spaceship that can fly through water with lasers jetting out of the front, be a nuke that can destroy everything on the map, or overlook the disadvantages of gravity by going anywhere you want to.
The core fun of Luftrausers doesn’t actually lie in the customization of your plane but how it forces the player to decide whether or not to shoot. I mentioned earlier that your plane heals itself when not shooting. The problem is that you have a combo meter that raises your score dramatically high. If you don’t shoot, you can’t score but if you shoot, you can’t heal yourself. There is a high risk and reward system to Luftrausers that makes me want to come back for more.
Visually, Luftrausers contains very stylized pixel art. You instantly know what is a plane and what is a battleship. Enemy fire is easy to understand. The colors pop in just the right tones. Also, exploding with the nuke body never gets old. Sprites are dazzling while feeling retro enough to come from the late 90’s, but that doesn’t matter because Luftrausers still looks stunning.
Every part of your plane is responsible for a part of the audio for your run. Each combination is a different track as weapons are in charge of the bass, engines the percussion, and bodies the high notes. The audio is dynamic and shows you, the player, how different your plane is. The roar of your guns and lasers mesh well with the music of the game. The stomping percussion at the start of a run gives a feeling of preparedness. Once you press up, you know what’s up.
Overall, Luftrausers is a shining example of fun and customization. Concept art for the game highlights how awesome you know you are once you get behind your plane. If you don’t feel satisfied after two or three runs, you probably weren’t actually playing the game, but just watching what happened if you let your plane fall into the ocean.