Some of my favorite Peanuts strips revolve around Snoopy’s alter ego of a World War I flying ace battling the likes of the Red Baron or the Austro-Hungarian Empire high up in the sky, his doghouse an adequate stand-in for a time-appropriate biplane capable of intense dogfighting. I even found the Xbox Live arcade title Snoopy Flying Ace to be decent fun. Anyways, I’ve always been a big fan of when comic strips get imaginative, which is why it won’t surprise you to learn I eat up other strips like Calvin and Hobbes, Rose is Rose, and Big Nate. In many ways, Vlambeer’s LUFTRAUSERS feels a lot like these comic strips, where the real and unreal mix in a manner that can only result in bold, sparkling joy.
The premise to LUFTRAUSERS is simple: select a combination of parts to complete your Rauser plane, take off into the sky, and shoot everything that shoots at you. Don’t worry, it’s not confusing–everything shoots at you. Depending on your plane’s build, you’ll have different amounts of HP, but you can recover damage by not shooting anything for a bit. Each part–gun, body, engine–has its own set of missions to complete, such as blowing up submarines or destroying ten enemies while boosting, and you can mix and match your build to create the perfect plane for completing each task. I personally found the Nuke body to be perfect for taking down those nasty submarines post-death. Right now, I’m trying to figure out how to get the blimp to spawn, as many missions are locked until I can take one of those bloated airbags down.
Visually, LUFTRAUSERS has a minimalistic look, but it works extremely well, because once you are up and about flying around like a madman, doing loops over dozens of on-screen enemies, the flat, muted graphics help make each enemy and bullet pop whereas something more detailed might cause these elements to become lost in the action. The sprites get more detailed in the menu options, such as in the bunker or statistics, where an actual member of your team is standing there, watching your every move. There’s also tiny cutscenes as well, which will make you fondly think of your childhood SNES adventures. From the sounds of it, you can collect other color variations for the game, too, so if sepia isn’t your thing, something else might sink your battleship.
The experience of zooming up into the sky, dropping down into the water, and blasting everything in sight would be less of a thrill if the soundtrack wasn’t as killer as it is. For one thing, the soundtrack morphs based on how you construct your plane, so there’s both plenty to hear, plenty to see, but regardless of that, every song exists to pump you up about getting into some intense aerial combat–and it works. I can’t tell you the number of times I caught myself unconsciously bobbing my head as I played, only to realize how into the tunes I was after my plane blew up.
I originally played LUFTRAUSERS on Steam, even streamed it a bit as I figured out my setup for Extra Life, though that video is now gone from my archives, but the game is now a November freebie for PlayStation Plus subscribers on PlayStation 3. No surprise, but it plays the same on both systems, but this arcade-inspired “one more run” style of game is more enjoyable on the couch, so that’s where I’ll continue on with my dogfighting plans. Watch out, blimps–I’m gunning for you!