When it comes to control, feel goes a long way in games. If something doesn’t feel right, if it doesn’t move as you expect, then there’s a disconnect.
But when it feels right, when time has obviously been spent polishing and refining such an innocuous thing as a button press, then it’s as though you’ve been wired directly into game itself.
Prepare for takeoff
What forces a change in attitude is the moment you unlock a new body for your plane. Now there’s a choice. This new part is armoured, offering more protection but at a cost of slower movement. From the moment you take off you can feel the difference as your previously cavalier attitude to flying is now far more sluggish. Gravity tugs back as the plane banks at high speed and for the first time you begin to truly sense the mass, the physicality, behind every airborne object. This is no longer Micro Machines.
The momentum every object possesses means that simply jinking out the way of incoming threats isn’t an option. This isn’t a twin-stick shooter. You can’t instantly throw you weight in a completely different direction, physics just doesn’t work like that. Find yourself flying headlong into a hail of bullets and there’s little you can do other than gently bank and hope you can weather the storm. Or so you think, for tied into the physics that will just as likely damn you there’s a subtle yet vital trick that can save your skin.
In the same insane way that when driving it is advised drivers should turn into a spin, pilots in trouble in Luftrausers should remove their finger from the throttle. For one, it quite sensibly stops you accelerating yet deeper into your predicament, and for another it greatly improves your turning rate. Whether to reposition your engine to boost you away from the threat or to just spin around to blast away at any squadron in pursuit, this light bulb moment can immediately be used to your advantage. This deft control of the engines is what will separate the rookies from the aces.
You need physics as an ally too as there’s a whole army trying to kill you. Initial skirmishes see squadrons of tiny fighters swarm around you, reinforced by boats on the flat seas below, both taking pot shots with humorously over-sized bullets. Neither pose any really threat, being the cannon fodder of the opposing forces, but before too long they’re joined by a steelier set of adversaries. Aces in highly manoeuvrable jets, battleships that send up huge volleys of fire, and submarines launching guided missiles towards your location all join the battle, turning the sky into a very crowded place.
The trick is keeping on top of proceedings, taking out smaller threats before they can overwhelm and picking off larger targets in between their waves of attack. It’s easier said than done however as each sortie typically only lasts a few minutes, with the tempo ramping up swiftly. In this battle against the odds planes are thankfully fitted with a generously swift recharging health bar, although as an interesting compromise it’ll only recharge when not firing. Expect a few sweaty palms as you disengage from a dogfight, hoping for clear skies in order to regain full health.
Throughout all of the carnage, your primary goal is to rack up as large a score as possible, most efficiently achieved by stringing together a continual series of kills to tot up your multiplier and earn huge points. However, what I found equally if not more rewarding was unlocking and experimenting with the host of extra plane parts. Weapons, body, and engines can all be swapped out to create a custom machine. From basic rapid firing machine guns through to more outlandish kamikaze hulls laced with nuclear explosives, there are dozens of combinations to choose from. If you can imagine a reinforced, laser-firing jet that happens to have an engine that doubles as a gun, then you can picture my ride.
It is more than just a customiser, though, as each new part unlocks new missions. Equipping the Stalker body, designed specifically for ramming enemy craft, may task you with destroying 30 enemies without ever firing, whilst the anti-grav engine could request that you achieve a similar feat when stalling. It’s a simple touch that encourages experimentation.
They go up diddley up-up
- Glorious handling
- Striking visuals
- Addictive gameplay
They go down diddley down-down
- Lack of game modes
Luftrausers Vita Review
Wrapped inside a gorgeously minimalist colour palette, they manage to get across equally the chaos of the dog fight and also the serenity of flight. Looping through the open skies before skimming low across the sea, kicking up spray in your wake, feels majestic. And yet they trade nothing in handing you the controls of a fighter plane that through torrents of fire can also duke and evade with the best of them.
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.