Luftrausers Review: Prepare for liftoff

In Luftrausers, you can kill a battleship by flying your plane through it.

I’ll repeat that.

In Luftrausers, you can kill a battleship by flying your plane through it.

If that can’t sell you on the game alone, then you’re beyond help. Vlambeer, the developer that’s been bringing the arcade back since 1826, has shown that they’re able to stand by such an incredulous claim. Want completely over-the-top action? You’ve got it. Looking for seemingly endless tinkering and customization with your ship? Not a problem. Itching to play again the second you die? It’s hard not to; thankfully, it won’t cost you any quarters to start all over.

Initially a free-to-play flash game, Luftrausers flourishes with a proper release. The gameplay remains relatively unchanged; you’re still a pilot killing as many enemies as humanly possible by any means necessary. Yes, that includes flying directly through them as I’ve alluded to before. There’s more to the game than just firing your weapons. As you’d expect from any arcade aerial combat game, there’s certain finesse needed with your navigation.

Killing enemy fighters is only half the battle. As veterans of the genre know, your shooting skills mean squat if you’re dead. The same is true here; you’re often weighing the risk/reward of navigation through enemy fire and eliminating those in your way. Adding to the scenario is the fact that as you fly without firing, you’ll regenerate ship health.  Ultimately, each game comes down to make or break moments. Is it worth trying to take out the really big enemy or is it better to just ignore it and keep your health maxed out? This adds a palpable tension to the game that’s usually only seen in arcade games, something that’s greatly enhanced when the soundtrack really gets going. Luftrausers

Thankfully, there’s no narrative or story pigeonholed into the game. While this gives the impression that surface of Luftrausers isn’t entirely deep (a colleague mentions “what’s there to say about a game that’s over in about 90 seconds), there’s a surprising amount of things to do. The move from flash to Steam has opened up a bevy of unlockables for your ship, allowing you to tinker and tailor with various engines, hulls, and weapons. Each combination has its own playstyle, suited to those who enjoy shooting anything and everything in sight or those who want to fly at breakneck speeds.

For the completionist crowd, there are in-game achievements to unlock. Playing along with the customizable ships, said achievements are dependent on the craft you’re piloting. If you’re looking to un lock them all, you’ll have to create them all. You’ll also have to be patient; there’s no real way to track achievements in-game other than notifications that they’ve happened. Sure, you’re told what’s available before launching into the game, but it’s hard to exactly remember that when you’re dodging hundreds and hundreds of bullets.

I could talk more and more about how enjoyable Luftrausers is, how exciting the gameplay is, how easy re-starting the game after death can be, how addicting and exhilarating the experience is, but at the end of the day, you can kill a battleship by flying your plane through it.