When you think of indie games, you think of a booming market of original titles that don’t always have the biggest budgets or the shiniest graphic engines, but gain their merit on gameplay and fun factor rather than flash. That’s exactly what development studio Vlambeer aimed to present with LUFTRAUSERS which was made available on Steam (as well as PS3 and Vita) during March of this year. I’ll admit I didn’t really get the hang of this one quickly, and at first rejected it completely based on how terrible it felt on a keyboard. But once you plug a controller in and really begin to appreciate this game for what it is, I think it’s easy to agree that something different albeit strange was presented by this developer and is worthy of most gamers’ attention.
Players take control of a plane trapped in a psychedelic shoot-em-up like never seen before. While diving into what can only be called water (for lack of real world definition) like a dolphin, and using planned trajectories to slingshot back up with the force of gravity, players destroy other planes, battleships, and even blimp-like objects earning upgrades for their vehicle of death enhancing and changing the projectiles they are capable of dispensing as well as the speeds they are capable of achieving.
Although Vlambeer made the game and Devolver Digital just published it, I feel like their golden touch can always be felt. It’s almost like indie devs bring Devolver Digital a project and Devolver Digital says “It better have bitchin’ music”. Of course in reality they probably do a lot more than that. LUFTRAUSERS doesn’t suffer from many game-breaking issues, leading me to believe quality assurance play-testing was pretty heavy on this project. This is also a testament to what a development team founded by only two human beings can achieve, and a lot of the quality here is likely from these two dedicated people alone.
The Feng Shui of flying the plane in this game combined with the silly fun vibe it gives off, but a lasting impression isn’t very strong here. Some issues exist when it comes to the game being entirely too luck-based, while heavily relying on players to nail down high scores. This can be frustrating for some to say the least. Enemies spawn randomly and challenges are not set out in concrete level designs. This is a pretty big let down although I respect the methodology that led Vlambeer to this end result and probably wouldn’t have done any better myself. But it also means that you’re probably not going to play this game all the time unless you’re a ‘Chieve-hunter. Get chieved! Get some! Or let it drop to the bottom of your backlog like most Steam games… either way.
First things first, if you don’t have a controller don’t bother. That being said, it would be your loss since this is a totally unique game. I never fell head over heels in love with it, but that doesn’t mean other players won’t. Originality in the game industry is a thing that should be embraced and praised, and serves as the core of Vlambeer’s existence. LUFTRAUSERS is a giant monument symbolizing their significant commitment to that philosophy of creating new. It’s also a great shoot-em-up with abstract graphics and an abstract gameworld, both of which are mechanics I feel need to be used way more often in the industry. Major props to everyone involved in making this project a reality.
Overall Score: 7 / 10
RGN Rating: Bronze Game
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Available On: PC | PS3 | Vita | Mac OS X | Linux
Played On: Windows PC
Review Copy Info: A digital copy of this game was provided to RealGamerNewz for the purpose of this Review.