Editor's Note: Maiyannah's copy of LUFTRAUSERS was provided free of charge as a Steam gift by a friend.
LUFTRAUSERS is a classic side-scrolling arcade shooter made by Vlambeer and published by Devolver Digital. Vlambeer is a game development house that has a certain knack for having their game ideas ripped off by mobile developers, and there's very much a reason for that: they make simple, arcade retro games very, very well, with an imitable art style and direction.
At it's heart, LUFTRAUSERS is a side-scrolling shooter set in a sort of alternate reality at the birth of jet flight, full of all kinds of anachronistic references to old science fiction and a rich graphics style that fully realises and embellishes the genre. The art style in general is very well-implemented, as is the sound design. It all fits together very well. The music design deserves special mention, because the in-game music changes slightly depending upon your choice of hull, weapon, and engine. So very different choices of plane will result in very different in-game music and it is a way of adding variety to the game that hasn't been much used before.
The game mechanics are simple, but work very well. The divergence from simple normal side-scrolling is the inclusion of a stall mechanic - when you are engaging the engine boost, you simply glide, which allows greater precision in turns at the price of losing altitude and slower forward momentum. It allows for a high skill ceiling in the maneuvering and some truly amazing stunts. Coupled with a variety of weapons, hulls, and engines that all act differently, the game not only offers a variety that keeps the game fresh, but also allows a player plenty of latitude to find a combination that fits their play-style. The controls are responsive, and it plays just fine with a keyboard, though this is another game that definitely feels more authentic with a classic controller.
The enemies in the game are varied and become incrementally more difficult as you survive longer. It starts as simple fighter planes, but progresses to patrol boats, jet fighters, ace pilots, battleships, and more. On top of that, unlock enough and you can unlock a "SFMT Mode" that not only greatly increases the speed at which the enemy progression occurs, but also unlocks new enemies to fight, as well as affords new unlocks for yourself.