We first came across Luftrausers at the Euro gamer Expo where it was set over in a corner with little explanation about how to play it. After attempting a few flights we gave up after dying within seconds. We’re pleased to say that now we have got hold of it on a home system and spent some quality time with it that the game absolutely shines.
The game is quite simple in concept- you launch your little plane and fly around an arena shooting down enemies and blowing up ships in order to build a high score. The top and bottom of arena are bordered by a cloud bank and water and you can infinitely fly left and right. It’s not dissimilar to something like Time Pilot crossed with Defender. To start with you are only dealing with small planes, but the longer you last and the more you shoot down the bigger and more difficult the enemies become.
There are a whole host of planes and ships to take on and each of them have their own characteristics and ways they must be approached. Planes are soon joined by super-fast jets and dog fighting aces, while boats become the side show to missile launching submarines and full on battle ships. Soon you’ll be weaving through inches of space as the screen fills with gun fire. Survive long enough and you might get to see the laser ace or the dreaded blimp.
Controlling your Rauser is easy but a little unconventional. You have your standard fire button but movement is more about momentum than just pushing a direction. Pressing up or the shoulder button propels you forward and you can then use the direction buttons to steer. This allows you to perform stalls and dives and turn the tables quickly on pursuing attackers. It might take a little while to get used to but it works perfectly once you get the hang of it. You’re plane can also take a few hits with releasing the fire button allowing you to heal.
As you progress you will unlock different parts for the plane. Each of these adds different properties such as being able to ram things without taking damage or changing your firing weapon. They all have pros and cons and there is no such thing as a perfect load out. Each part also has a number of different challenges to complete which helps to unlock more parts and raise your Rauser level. Our personal favourite is the part that allows you to dive into the water without taking damage. With some clever use of components you can use this and the battering ram part to turn your plane into a water skimming missile.
What at first seems like it could be a fun five minute game soon reveals the depth and complexity of its scoring system. There are over a hundred different combinations of plane parts and challenges continually unlock as you play and once you take down a blimp it really gets crazy. It’s a high score game at heart so the more friends you have to show up on the leader board the better but even taken on its own merit this a game that every Vita owner should own. It doesn’t seem to fit the PS3 quite so well but that’s mainly down to the Vita proving to be a natural fit.
Overall, Luftrausers has managed to take all the best elements from the early days of arcade shooters and package them into this crazy game. It’s the sort of thing you pick up for five minutes and then put down two hours later and as a pure gaming test of skill there is very little else out there to match it.