At at time where high octane, flight action simulators such as Ace Combat and H.A.W.X. are the heavy hitters that you will see on store shelves, along comes a little gem called Luftrausers. As an individual who spent countless childhood hours playing the classic 2D top-down flight game 1942, the premise of Luftrausers has been exciting ever since the announcement of its release on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita. The game itself is tons of fun and full of unlockables and customization, but its lasting power may not be strong enough to keep you away from other games in your library.
Luftrausers has a vintage vibe to it, with tints of brown and tan enhancing a simplistic color palette. It all blends together very well. Your plane never blends in with the background, nor do the persistent fighters, missiles, and boats that are hell bent on bringing you down. Your aerial dogfight enemies consist of small planes, jets, small boats, and huge tankers. Their weapons and tactics will vary and alter your strategy. If you’re a slow mover and not great with evasive tactics, then the super-persistent smaller planes will hound you. Move too fast, and you’ll likely cross fire with the missiles and bullets spewing from the canons of the boats sitting on the water waiting for you to mess up.
Like any game, it takes a bit of practice to learn the controls. But that process is also pleasantly in flux due to the large amount of customizations you can make to your plane. There are three categories, weapon, body, and engine, that determine what kind of plane you fly. The type of plane also alters your objectives; which I thought was very cool. For example, you may chose a heavily armored plane with a laser and underwater engine. The three objectives with that plane might be kill an ace, kill 100 enemies, and kill 3 boats while falling. Changing just one aspect of your plane will change some or all of your objectives. As such, this mechanic gives Luftrausers a great deal of replay value.
Sound and visual cues substitute a traditional health bar. As you take damage, you’ll see your plane begin to smoke and hear a beeping sound. You heal your plane by boosting with the up arrow (or analog sticks if you choose) and refrain from shooting. This healing mechanic becomes very difficult in later levels as the challenge ramps up.
There are no traditional levels, but more of a backdrop that evolves as you play. Enemies appear without much of a pattern, blindsiding you every chance they get. The simplistic level design does not become boring or repetitive due to the fact that you’re constantly focusing your attention on evading enemies and taking them down.
Overall, while Luftrausers is a decent title, I will reiterate that your enjoyment with the game ultimately comes down to its lasting power. It is the perfect game to pick up on the go or to kill some time, but bite-sized games such as this can only keep your attention for so long. Some completists will unlock all 125 plane combinations, beat all 100 levels, and earn the 12 Trophies available; but it is hard to say that Luftrausers has lasting appeal. Regardless, at $9.99 (and a Cross-Buy title) it is a solid pick up, and I would be all aboard for a sequel.