Vlambeer is really good at blowing things up. From mobile games like Super Crate Box to Ridiculous Fishing, the Dutch indie developers show that they've found a formula that works: great design, music, gameplay, and of course, lots of guns. With pixelated visuals and classic shoot-em-up gameplay (think Asteroids meets WWII-style dogfighting), is a title that's deceptively simple and mercilessly addicting.
The game presents a beige-and-maroon canvas for players to paint aerial destruction with the help of their lone warplane. Press start and you're blasted into the skies against an endless armada of boats, planes, and airships, with all guns trained to your aircraft's location. The controls are incredibly simple. The up button is thrust, release to stall the engines, and left and right steers the plane in a 360-degree swivel. Luftrausers rewards you for continued destruction with multipliers than increase as players claim more foes. However, if you're unable to satiate the game's destructive appetite, the bonuses disappear. The only way to meet your demise is if you sustain too much damage too quickly, so agility is as important as quick trigger finger.
At its most basic, that's pretty much it. In fact, that was Vlambeer's original vision when they built the years earlier.
So what are you exactly getting for $10? Well, the answer is a lot.
First, Vlambeer added much more depth and replayability to the game. The object of the game isn't just to fly around aimlessly like a drunk, heavily armed gnat, but to upgrade your aircraft with 125 different combinations and shoot through 100 levels to make yourself a true scourge of the skies. Each new type of aircraft has its own moniker (my favorite so far being "The Pig") and music is determined by what plane you're using.
At first if you feel like you're not being adequately challenged, just be patient. The developers built an extremely difficult mode, known as "SFMT," which will test not only your twitch gaming skills but also your own sanity.
Apart from gameplay, Luftrausers looks much better than its flash-based counterpart. The team created in-depth menus with stern-looking military officers and crazed scientists accompanying players' stats, available upgrades, or worldwide rank. The animations are all around sharper, and it feels like a finished product rather than a promising idea.
Bottom Line: Buy It
Luftrausers is just fun. It combines everything from the joys of a classic shoot 'em up with well-designed and stylized gameplay that keeps me pressing "launch" again and again. The title is currently available through Steam on Linux, Windows, and Mac and through the PlayStation Network via PS3 or PS Vita.
Indie titles sometimes undeservedly get ignored amidst conversations about next-gen console wars or AAA titles. Don't let Luftrausers be one of them.