Holy christ this game is hard.
Hang on. I’ll be right back, going to get another round of Luftrausers in before the review.
Won’t be a minute.
Okay, that was three rounds, but you didn’t notice.
The Play’s The Thing
Some play experiences are just too pure to actually convey. I can’t tell you exactly what it’s like to play Luftrausers in text, because all the words for that have not been written in English. Perhaps in the language of the Ten Year Old I can.
You launch out of the submarine like FOOOSH then you’re flying around all nnnnneeeeewaaaaaaahhh while you weave between bullets all whup-whup-whah then you have to find a target and gun them down – papapapapow or maybe FOOSH or sometimes KABOOM – but then, then, there’s like, sometimes there’s a fire on your ship, or you’ve been hit like TING and suddenly you have to prioritise your attacking or your movement or maybe just go for it and try to dive all NNNnyyyYYYYEEEUUWWWWCKPSH! into something to end the game.
I don’t think that helped much at all.
Luftrausers is a game of play. The framing device is almost meaningless – it simply informs its aesthetic. The aesthetic is beautifully simple; there are shapes on the field that aren’t you, and there’s you, and you fly around with the four button-control and shoot things until you are eventually shot. Your plane – the ‘rauser’ – can be customised with a surprising variety of extra bits and pieces, which change how you shoot, move, take hits, deal with pursuits or even see your demise. If you have seen the gameplay video, you can play Luftrausers.
Chaotic, Not Random
What I think is most remarkable about Luftrausers is that it is a game that, for all of its chaos is anything but random. It is a thousand intricately designed, tightly interconnected parts. Some of the parts are simple, and do simple things; some are complicated, but nothing that happens in the game is happening randomly. No, there’s a cause and effect to all of it; enemies will shoot you based on the timers they each have, and they’re spawned based on their own timers, and they react to your movements based on their momentum and there are boats and battleships that track you at a slow pace and if you can actually keep track of this, you are clearly some sort of monstrous space-brain. Chances are you can’t, and the only way you can come close is to either slip into a meditative state, where the play simply is, or embrace the futility of it all and enjoy dying over and over again.
If I had to criticise Luftrausers, and well, I sort of do, it would be that for all of this intricacy of systems, it’s not going anywhere. Everything about Luftrausers returns to its circle; when you run out of combo, you simply rebuild it again; when your Rauser is destroyed, you get a new one; when your interest wanes, you close the game for now. There isn’t any plot, any advancement. It is combat without background, violence without context. In its purest sense, Luftrausers is combat pornography, designed to create a simple scenario for you to enjoy with as little preamble as possible, and go away just as readily.
It’s not shallow, it’s not simple, but it is very convenient.
You can get it via Devolver, on the PSN, Steam, and via the Humble store.
Buy it if:
- You want something fast, iterative, and tense.
- You want something unpredictable and reckless.
Avoid it if:
- You don’t like reflex games.
- You want a game that feels really fair.