Sony is hitting its indie support initiative hard with a collection of promising titles. Among them is Vlambeer’s 2D aerial combat game Luftrausers (a fleshed-out follow-up to its free flash game, Luftrauser). The PS3, Vita, and PC title puts players in the boots of a Rauser pilot fighting against waves of enemy planes and attack ships. In my short time with the game I went from a dubious rookie to capable pilot.
Luftrausers’ aesthetic evokes a sepia-toned WWII footage vibe, complete with a film projector menu system. Players steer their upgradeable jet with the analog stick, engage the engine with a button press, and blast enemies with another. The core gameplay feels like Asteroids with gravity. Clouds above and the ocean below gate the arena, but accidentally flying into either isn’t a death sentence. Getting a handle for maneuvering your craft takes a while, but the unique controls eventually open up opportunities for flashy encounters.
Battles involve holding your own for as long as you can against huge squadrons of planes, huge ships with AA guns, and other ace pilots. I love weaving though machine gun fire, turning on a dime to gun down pursuing aircraft, and swooping down to attack ships. Satisfying mission goals like killing a certain amount of enemies unlocks new pieces to customize your aircraft. Your Rauser’s weapon, body and engine can be mixed and match. Sacrifice speed for armor with a beefier frame, exchange your machine gun for a solid laser beam or spread shot, or swap in an engine that propels itself with bullets. I had the best luck with a sturdy, fast ship with a laser beam. I compensated for my slow turn speed by disengaging my engine before turning to blast multiple enemies with my laser.
Luftrausers’ retro aesthetic, simple but challenging gameplay, and customizable aircraft coalesce into a fun, simple game that’s hard to put down. Look for it soon on Vita, PS3, and PC.