Luftrausers Review: Fast-Paced Arcade Piloting is Fun, But Thin
The regeneration mechanic and the overall agility of the game’s controls mean this isn’t a game about holding down the fire button, but about picking your shots. It’s an interesting reworking of the usual shmup formula, and Luftrausers manages to make it even deeper by throwing in challenges — anything from killing a certain kind of enemy to taking down seven different enemy classes in the same match — and various plane components you can unlock and mix and match to make a vehicle that fights the way you want.
There are a lot of solid elements to Luftrausers, but it feels somewhat empty even with all customization and challenges. More aptly, it feels more like a mobile game than a $10 PC release. The screen even defaults on PC to a size and resolution not far removed from a smartphone or a Playstation Vita, although you can blow it up to fullscreen.
Even as you clear challenges, try different plane components, and learn to play better, Luftrausers is pretty much always the same battle. Difficulty escalates over time as new enemies show up, and there are shifting dynamics in the way the game plays as you access new parts and combine them in different ways. But even still, you’re always just hopping into a battle you’ll eventually lose, against the same sorts of enemies, hoping to stay alive as long as you can.
There’s some progression to each fight, but it’s fairly meager. For example, you’ll fight off small fighters at first — they go down easy — and soon those planes are joined by larger and more mobile Aces. Before long, four or five aces might be circling you, but dropping them doesn’t earn you momentary safety. It just seems to mean more aces in a few seconds.
The same is true of other enemies like huge, hard-to-kill battleships, which before long seem to fill the lower portion of the screen. When I finally destroyed the blimp, Luftrauser’s toughest enemy, it resulted in pretty much more of the same fighting. There are always enemies waiting to fill in any gaps you clear.
Of course, that’s an arcade game for you. Luftrausers is about racking up high scores and unlocking new components, and its challenges just give you an excuse to play slightly differently or reach for different goals. That said, there’s not a lot to hold players’ attention for very long unless they’re serious about climbing the leaderboards.
And the real disparity comes down to price. At $10, Luftrausers feels expensive. It’s a game that will have shown you all there is to see, really, in the first 10 or 15 minutes. After that, you’ll just be getting slightly different additions — a new engine component that lets you float rather than fall, or a new enemy that shoots slightly different bullets.
Luftrausers is a very good time and it’s nice that it shakes up the genre of arcade shooters by making creatively escaping death and blasting away at bad guys carry the same weight. But it’s also mostly a momentary distraction, a game you come back to for a few minutes when you’ve got time to kill, and for that, Luftrausers feels like its asking price is a bit too high for what’s on offer. If anything, Vlambeer’s arcade title should be right at home on the Playstation Vita; on PC, however, it feels a bit on the thin side.
- Intuitive, sharp controls that feel good and bring a different take to the genre
- Regenerative planes and shooting controls make battles strategic and require quick thinking
- Lots of unlockable plane components mean it’s possible to find a loadout that you particularly like, but challenges encourage you to play with the other possible combinations
- Provides a quick, fun arcade experience
- Six-color palette and 8-bit graphics actually serve the title quite well and are super-stylish
- Shows you basically everything it has to offer pretty fast; not a lot to keep people playing once everything is unlocked
- Price tag feels high for the relative thinness of the experience
Final Score: 75/100
Luftrausers was reviewed using a Steam code provided by Devolver Digital. Game Front employs a 100-point scale when reviewing games to be as accurate about the experience as possible. Read the full rundown of what our review scores mean.