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Review: Lichtspeer

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Lend me your speers

Sometimes it feels like I've done it all. I've been a military man, I've been a wizard, I've been a space traveler, I've been a space wizard. Then something like Lichtspeer comes along with its own unique aesthetic and reminds me how many different experiences there are out there.

Never before have I been a neon laser Viking with a javelin made out of pure energy. Check that one off the list. But although Lichtspeer is oozing with style, it's limited in scope. It only does one thing, but it does it well.

Lichtspeer (Linux, Mac, PC, PS4, Switch [reviewed])
Developer: Lichthund
Publisher: Lichthund / Crunching Koalas
Released: September 27, 2016 (Linux, Mac, PC, PS4), September 7, 2017 (Switch)
MSRP: $9.99

Setup is light, but it's entertaining. The player is tasked with using a lichtspeer to survive waves of enemies, but more importantly to be radical. The entity giving the instruction is like a malevolent Germanic heavy metal King of All Cosmos, and he drops some of Lichtspeer's best comic lines. He's also a stringent ruler, punishing players for being less awesome than the ideal warrior.

That punishment comes from missing lichtspeer throws. See, even though the horde can get overwhelming, part of being radical is being precise. Each javelin takes a half second to wind up, so there's no spamming shots in panic. Hit headshots and string together quick successive kills to score multipliers and bonus points, but miss a couple throws in a row and the multiplier resets. Miss three in a row and the licht god appears, shouts "NEIN," and stuns the gladiator for a few seconds. It usually spells death.

It's the kind of action game that can put the player in a trance. There's a limited guide line to show the projected path of the javelin, but when you get in the zone, you can start throwing lichtspeers without really looking at it. A level that initially seems impossible suddenly opens itself up and it all comes together effortlessly.

To help with those panic moments, there are special abilities on cooldowns that can be modified and upgraded over time. The role-playing game elements are light, but they provide another reason to keep playing even after finishing the story once. After a single play through, I only had about a quarter of the abilities unlocked. No one special ability ever needs to be used, but different loadouts can have a significant effect on how any one battle plays out. Those who shoot for high scores will definitely find some light min-maxing to engage with here.

Later levels introduce new mechanics, like armored zombies who only take damage from headshots, destructible devices that speed up enemies, flying demon dogs, jumping piranhas, and harpoons that require long shots. Even seemingly mundane changes like zooming out, considering elevation and slopes, or low light to obscure parts of the action add in enough to keep the player from getting too comfortable.

The boss fights can be clever too. For a game whose only control is the angle of a spear throw, Lichtspeer finds ways to add in elements like progression through phases and even evasion and parrying. One boss provided an "a-ha" moment where it isn't even immediately obvious how to deal damage before being rent to shreds.

Even though it started making its comeback a few years ago, the 1980s-esque neon palette still hasn't gotten old. The soundtrack matches it, with heavy synth tones and plodding beats. The whole aesthetic deserves its props; no matter how satisfying the gameplay is, the thing I'll always remember about Lichtspeer is its over-the-top presentation.

In a way, it's refreshing to get a game that knows exactly what it wants to do, executes on that idea, but doesn't overstay its welcome. The central mechanic of precision projectile motion is unique, and Lichtspeer plays with the formula enough to keep the experience fresh right up until the end.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]


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Lichtspeer reviewed by Darren Nakamura

7

GOOD

Solid and definitely has an audience. There could be some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.
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Darren Nakamura
Darren NakamuraAssociate Editor   gamer profile

Darren is a scientist during the day. He has been a Destructoid community member since 2006, joining the front page as a contributor in 2011. While he enjoys shooters, RPGs, platformers, strateg... more + disclosures


 



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