Vlambeer sure does make great games. Super Crate Box and Gun Godz in particular are just so finely tuned that I can't help but wonder whether the dudes that make up the Netherlands-based studio are game developer robots. I'm pretty sure they are. Has anyone actually seen them get doused by water? I know I haven't.
At any rate, these robots are working on creating another game called LUFTRAUSERS. It's about flying a plane, being a badass, and blowing people up. Classic Vlambeer.
The goal in LUFTRAUSERS is to kick some serious butt. You fly a small airship tasked with blowing up other aircraft and boats. Doing so rewards points, which go towards unlocking new parts for the ship. If there is an "end game," I clearly haven't been awesome enough to get to that point, though I think I might have come close a few times.
The main draw of LUFTRAUSERS isn't beating the game, though. It’s doing better and better in order to make your ship bigger and badder. Ships are divided into three pieces: the weapon, body, and engine. Mixing and matching pieces together is really interesting, as each new combo is given a nickname by the game and even its own objectives to complete.
For example, my favorite combination so far is the "Danger Zone." It uses a superboosted engine that's hard to control accurately, along with a four-homing-missile weapon system that can't be spammed but can be very powerful against a single enemy, and a Nuke body, which does tremendous damage to everything on the level after death.
I love this combination because it has a pretty high skill ceiling. Not being able to spam the homing missiles (since only four can be out at once) forces the player to think about their shots, rather than simply holding down the X key in order to win. Likewise, the superboosted engine is a bit unwieldy, since "pressing the gas" launches the ship in a single direction at a very high speed. It isn't easy, but getting a good round with the Danger Zone just feels good.
While watching someone play LUFTRAUSERS, it may look like a chaotic mess, but somehow everything is easily interpreted by the player. On the PC, movement is done via the arrow keys, while firing uses the X key. After a few brief learning rounds, chances are that you'll come to grips with the controls and they'll simply "click."
After a while, I was bobbing and weaving around bullets and enemies like a graceful ballerina of death. I almost felt as if my hand was on auto-pilot (eh? eh?) while evading taking damage. A certain sense of clairvoyance came over me, which dramatically increased my score.
Score is based off of a multiplier, which goes up by one for each kill, to a maximum of twenty. Managing the multiplier while simultaneously concentrating on avoiding damage is much easier said than done. Especially since, after taking damage, the player needs to stop accelerating and firing in order to recoup some of that lost HP.
A ship's health is represented by a circle around it, only visible after taking damage. The circle has some discoloration to it, making it super easy to see while in the middle of the chaotic nonsense going on around the player. It's a great way to keep the player's eyes on the ship instead of some health bar on the corner of the screen, away from the action.
Mission objectives also show up, the contents of which depend on the ship's makeup. They start off easy enough, challenging players to get a MAX combo or kill 10 enemies without letting go of the fire key. I love the objectives because it gives me something to aim for other than just a high score (though sometimes that's all it takes to complete a mission). I can go in and know what I want to accomplish before I reach my inevitable demise.
The graphics are tinted in a wonderful sepia tone which looks great in motion. The music is done by KOZILEK, giving me the opportunity to remind everyone that Gun Godz exists and that you should go play it. If that's any indication of what the combo of Vlambeer and KOZILEK can accomplish, I can't wait for LUFTRAUSERS to be finished.
I do wish there was some innate controller support, however, since my right hand ached pretty badly after some serious constant playtime with the game. Considering that the game will also show up on the PS3 and Vita, the odds seem pretty good. In fact, this will fit so perfectly on the Vita that it makes me a bit jealous.
LUFTRAUSERS is the definition of intensity. A few minutes into a round, when the music really kicks in and you may or may not have taken some hits to your ship, your whole body tightens up as you intentionally weave in and out of oncoming bullets, firing at anything that comes your way. The game does a perfect job of making you feel like a badass. A sepia-tone badass.
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