Luftrausers

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by Vlambeer for PC, Mac, Linux, PS3, and Vita, originally released in 2014.
Luftrausers is a follow-up to the original Flash-based Luftrauser. It is built upon the same core mechanics but features enhanced visuals and expanded gameplay. Luftrausers sees players piloting a customizable experimental aircraft against waves of enemy fighters, jets, gunboats, and other machines of war in a highly stylized environment.


Luftrausers sets itself apart from other shooters with its wild controls and over-the-top weaponry and customizations. You are free to fly about in any direction, soaring high into the sky, skimming across the water (with a nice spray effect behind you), and jetting along horizontally in an infinite loop. Players are bounded by a thick layer of clouds at the top of the screen, and a body of water at the bottom. Flying through either will steadily drain your health and repel you, turning your plane back toward the playing field.

Rather than giving the player direct control over his plane in the traditional sense, Luftrausers offers only the ability to turn and to thrust. This means that players can rocket forward in a straight line, spin the plane around, and then rocket off in that direction. It takes a while to get the hang of this control scheme, particularly since you must continue to deal with inertia and gravity, but once you do, you’ll be pulling off impossible aerial acrobatics and blasting away enemies in all directions.


Holding the THRUST button propels you forward, and letting off causes you to stall, although you are free to turn your plane and fire as you do so. Most weapons only fire straight forward, which means that you’ll need to spin around to hit enemies coming up from behind, or just fly straight through them, which simultaneously damages their vessels as well as your own.

A ring around your ship – as well as particles trailing behind you – indicates the amount of damage you can sustain before your Rauser is destroyed, and an alarm will sound when your health gets dangerously low. As the ring gets smaller, so too does your lifespan, although you can stave off death by letting off of the trigger for a few seconds. If you stop firing, your health is slowly restored… but the constant stream of new enemies makes this a risky endeavor, forcing the player to balance his dogfighting skills against the looming threat of death.


Getting killed starts the player back at the beginning of the game, but this is supported by an endless arcade design that increases the difficulty rapidly. As such, the design only allows for short gameplay sessions, rather than a single lengthy campaign. Sessions escalate quickly into madness as the player attempts to use his skills to survive for an extra few seconds, and hopefully complete one of the game’s many bite-sized challenges.

Challenges come in a number of forms, but mostly revolve around killing various enemy types, destroying a certain number of enemies, reaching the indicated score or combo, or defeating enemies under specified conditions. Skulls indicate how difficult each challenge is, and there are more than 100 challenges in total. Completing challenges is the primary means of progression, and cutscenes appear after each major enemy type is destroyed for the first time.


As you destroy enemy planes and boats, you begin unlocking new customizations for your craft. Upgrades come in three varieties: weapons, body, and engines, and these customizations greatly impact the way your craft operates. Your starting weapon is a machine gun that fires a steady blast in a straight line. This is quite different from the laser that causes continuous damage and penetrates enemies but comes with a tradeoff in that your turning speed is reduced while firing. Other weapon types include a spread shot, homing missiles with loose targeting, and an extremely powerful but difficult to use canon.


Body types tend to trade off speed and maneuverability with increased armor. One specialty body lets you eliminate impact damage from coming into contact with other vessels, allowing you to ram your way through enemies, but you take more damage from projectiles. Another exciting body drops a nuke when you are eventually killed, leaving behind a satisfying mass of explosions and a skull shape that stretches open its mouth and disappears.


Finally, engines let you increase your top speed, move underwater, or reduce the effect of gravity. Some engine and body types even act as supplemental weapons, allowing you to fire behind your Rauser or drop bombs on enemies below.

Every weapon, body, and engine type comes with its own set of challenges, often built around each item’s strength. This forces players to change their loadout between sessions and experiment with the various customizations. Once you make it far enough, you can opt to let the game randomly choose parts of your Rauser, and there is a more difficult set of challenges awaiting those who manage to unlock everything and defeat the toughest of enemies.


The most abundant foes come in the form of slow but maneuverable fighters, speedy jets, and lumbering machine gunning aces. Below are various ships, from the smaller destroyers that go down with a solid volley, to the larger battleships that require multiple strafing runs and deft use of the controls to avoid their constant stream of projectiles. Ships are more difficult to destroy, since you have to fly low to reach them, turn your body to fire at them, and then recover before you slam into them or dip beneath the surface of the water. And if you think that battleships are tough, there are a few rarer enemy types that will truly put your skills to the test.


The player’s score is largely determined by the combo meter, which increases with each enemy destroyed. Players can increase to a maximum 20x multiplier, and retaining the high multiplier allows the player to rack up huge scores… although the random nature of enemy generation can make it difficult to keep the combo going once the basic popcorn enemies are cleared out of your immediate firing range.

Luftrausers is presented in a high contrast sepia tone by default, with light backgrounds and dark solid planes and ships. Despite the simple style, the visuals are substantially upgraded from the original Luftrauser release, offering additional background details and particle effects, as well as several new unlockable color schemes. Art design mimics that of World War II-era uniforms and propaganda, but with a somewhat more futuristic take on the subject.



2D CRED
Luftrausers was developed by Vlambeer, which is based in Utrecht, Netherlands, founded by Rami Ismail and Jan Willem Nijman in 2010. The game is an expanded and updated version of Luftrauser, originally released as a Flash game in 2011.


The original Luftrauser is technically not a Vlambeer release, but rather made as a partnership between designer Rami Ismail, artist Paul Veer, and musician Jukio Kallio, a.k.a. Kozilek. Paul Veer worked as an artist for Celestial Mechanica, Hyper Light Drifter, Batman: The Brave and The Bold, and a number of official Vlambeer releases, including Super Crate Box, Serious Sam: The Random Encounter, and Nuclear Throne.

Luftrausers was published by Devolver Digital, which has published a number of 2D indie titles, including Serious Sam: Double D XXL, Foul Play, Hotline Miami, Broforce, Titan Souls, Not a Hero, Ronin, Downwell, Enter the Gungeon, and Mother Russia Bleeds, as well as Vlambeer’s own Serious Sam: The Random Encounter. Luftrausers was developed concurrently with Nuclear Throne.

Vlambeer’s first official release was the Flash-based Radical Fishing in 2010, followed soon after by the game that put them on the radar of gamers around the world: Super Crate Box.



Super Crate Box has a simple yet surprisingly engaging structure: You control a little squarish fellow in a single-screen environment, armed with a pistol. As you play, enemies constantly stream into the environment from the top of the screen, begging for you to toss them a lead salad. If you let any of the enemies reach the bottom of the screen, they will respawn at the top as faster tougher versions of their former selves. Fortunately, you have access to a variety of weaponry to stop this from happening.


Crates randomly appear around the environment, each of which contains a different weapon. Each weapon has a different firing type, which alters the way you engage enemies. While you start with a basic pistol, you can get dual pistols that fire to the left and right simultaneously, a short range shotgun, a wildly spraying machine gun, and the strong but slow bazooka.


Players are encouraged to grab as many crates as possible – and therefore constantly switch weapon types – which, in turn, unlocks new weapon types, more complex levels, and new characters. Unlocked weapons appear in crates in future playthroughs, expanding into more powerful armaments such as the revolver, laser, and flamethrower, as well as some stranger ones like the katana and an insane disc gun that produces bouncing projectiles that can (and will) kill you.



In 2011, Devolver Digital approached three independent studios and asked them each to develop a game based on the Serious Sam franchise, as a way to promote their upcoming release of Serious Sam 3: BFE. This led to the development of the auto-runner Serious Sam: Kamikaze Attack from Be-Rad Entertainment, a gun-heavy shooter Serious Sam: Double D from Mommy’s Best Games, and backwards-running JRPG Serious Sam: The Random Encounter.


The Random Encounter takes the otherwise shooty Sam Stone and drops him into a turn-based environment with a few gun-toting pals. When a random encounter is initiated from the tile-based overworld, Sam finds himself running constantly backward and shooting (much like he does in the traditional 3D action games). As with most JRPG’s, players use a menu to select between the options to fight, swap weapons, or use an item. New weapons are discovered as you play, featuring many of Sam’s trademark weapons, including the dual pistols, shotgun, minigun, and rocket launcher. Many of the weapons allow you to configure their use, including their range of fire or trajectory.


Traditional Serious Sam enemies and bosses are in place, each of which requires a different strategy to dispatch, such as Gnaar that go down more easily with an up-close shotgun blast, and larger enemies that are best dispatched with something heavier. The menu reappears every five seconds, allowing players to issue new orders to the party. Players can move Sam and his party up and down to dodge bullets and make the most effective use of their weapons as enemies slowly approach from the left, often in swarms.



Vlambeer would later go on to revisit Radical Fishing with an updated mobile version called Ridiculous Fishing, released in 2013... but unfortunately, they were beaten to the punch by another developer who cloned their design – a now-common problem in mobile development – and released it well ahead of Ridiculous Fishing. Fortunately, fans motivated the developers to continue work on their own game, and the official Ridiculous Fishing release outshined the clone in every possible way.

The game is split into three sections. In the first, you attempt to get your lure as far down in the water as possible, avoiding fish (or smashing through them) until you manage to hook one fish. At this point, the lure begins reeling back in, and your goal is to hook as many other fish as you can on your way back up, avoiding jellyfish along the way. Then, once the fish reach the surface, they are flung high into the air, and you blast them out of the sky with a shotgun, like any ridiculous fisherman would.

Shooting down fish earns you money so you can buy better equipment to reach greater depths, catch more fish, and blast them into a bloody spray. The game also features larger boss-class fish, as well as a bottomless mode for score challenges.

Unfortunately, this would not be the last time that Vlambeer would have to deal with other developers cloning their games, as the same happened with Luftrauser, while Vlambeer was working on the development of Luftrausers. Super Crate Box has also been cloned on more than one occasion.

Cloning of Vlambeer’s games has been so rampant that some media outlets used the term “Vlambeer'd” to describe the cloning issue. Another developer even created a game called Vlambeer Clone Tycoon, a simulation in which players attempt to clone Vlambeer’s games and release them before Vlambeer can, but with enough differences to avoid legal troubles.

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