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Impressions: Luftrausers makes too much sense on the Vita

2:00 PM on 04.05.2014 // Steven Hansen

Luftrauser? I hardly even know her!

Luftrausers is perfect on the Vita in the same way Vlambeer's Super Crate Box was perfect on the Vita. It's "perfect for the Vita" because it's a great game. While either title, with their minimal arcade sensibilities "make sense" on a portable (with buttons) for their quickness, you're not likely to play Luftrausers for just ten minutes on your commute.

You're more likely to miss your stop because you mashed "up" to launch, craving one more run. This time you'll do better. This time you'll kill that blimp.

Maybe my handheld love makes Luftrausers perfect on the Vita for me, but there's something freeing in its total parity with the PS3 and PC versions, but on a dense, gorgeous OLED. The PC controls almost make more practical sense. It helps that there's an elegant balance of risk (if you shoot, you don't recover health) versus reward (the only way to score big is to combo, to generally keep shooting things).

This is not a traditional shmup. You're freewheeling around, left and right, up and down, a finite area, trying to stay alive. And the "up" to engage engine, left and right arrow to control orientation makes sense, what with your ability to have a finger on all those necessary keys at once. Playing Luftrausers with the d-pad -- and, heck, maybe you prefer the analog -- took some getting used to because it doesn't control how you'd expect. 

But I quickly got into the rhythm of rolling my thumb across the top half of the d-pad and the fluidity of Luftrausers is wonderful. It's not that it's imprecise, but as if everything operated on sin waves rather than Super Crate Box jumps on linear platforms. Thank the finely tuned physics and gravity for its satisfying chaotic choreography.

The best way to fly, though this may be build dependent (it makes more sense with the laser), is a manic starting and stalling, changing direction (and laser aim) in midair. Curved serpentine, pulling up at the last moment and skimming the damaging water at the bottom of the screen. Aside from the immediate changes in direction, it feels as abstractly representative of actual dogfighting as you can get.

Luftrausers is a great fit on the Vita because a match can last seconds. Minutes if you're an ace pilot. And that always makes sense on a portable system. But I spent hours at a time playing while sitting in bed, dancing across the skies like a waltzing pinball,  trying and trying again. Even if I can't kill the damn blimp.

Steven Hansen, Features Editor
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Steven watches anime & sports, buys meat out of trucks, dates a Muppet, and is only good at cooking. He stands before you bereft of solace and well on the road to perdition. ('^ω^) more   |   staff directory

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