Posted: September 23, 2014
A fallacious argument regarding arcade games is that they're designed solely to take your money. If anything, arcade games make you value your money. Think about it, your life is represented by a mere quarter. With practice that quarter could take you anywhere you want to go. For most of us nowadays, the only exposure to arcade games is through the occasional port or MAME. We've lost sight of how much a quarter is worth.
What a lot of arcade-style games get wrong is that they have too much content. They have a lot of fluff like epic intros, backstories, dozens of stages, freakin' level-ups. I don't play an arcade game for all that filth, I want a good challenge, I want the action to start seconds after I begin. Luftrausers understands what makes an arcade game work, and it's fantastic.
So uh...there's a war or something, you're a pilot, and oh who cares? You're either very skilled or exceptionally lucky to survive five minutes of this hell. The goal is to fly around, shoot down enemy fighters, destroy their boats, wreck their aces, sink their battleships, obliterate their subs, and probably wipe out their airships. One element of a good arcade game is that you can grasp its mechanics and controls in seconds. The enemy numbers are overwhelming but dodging and returning fire is seamless and impeccably designed. Your goals are simply to improve hi-score, complete various missions, and unlock parts.
Whoa back up, unlock parts? What is this? It's actually a very clever system. The parts in this game aren't just +1 to armor or +3 to fire-power. They change up the player's entire style and strategy. There are a multitude of weapon, body, and engine combinations. Finding the one that suits you is all part of the fun. For example, having a propellor equipped allows the player's ship to not take damage underwater. When the heat becomes a little too much, it's possible to duck into the sea for a quick breather. Couple this with the laser cannon and enemies can be destroyed while firing from underwater. Every combination leads to various changes in how every game is played, and with each attempt lasting minutes at the most, there's a lot of ideas to play around with.
What makes this such a smartly-designed game is that it does a lot with very little. There are maybe 7 or 8 enemy-types in the entire game, but they're used just right to make every game feel fresh. Changing the parts of your ship or focusing on different objectives can also make every attempt feel different from the last. I've gotten more than a couple hours out of this tiny game precisely because it knows what works and runs with it.
Definitely pick up Luftrausers if you haven't already. If you're the bundle-purchasing type it has to be in your library already. If not...well...oops? Grab it during the next sale, or buy it right now. Just play this game next chance you get, it's definitely worth it.