Remember those old-school games that tested your ability to make it all the way through without dying? Developer Lichthund harnesses that innate desire to complete a perfect run and channels it within Litchspeer: Double Speer Edition, a game that pits you against hordes of deadly enemies. Your weapon? An unlimited supply of glowing neon spears.
Lichtspeer is utterly unashamed in how it presents itself. Set in an “ancient Germanic future” in a world lifted from ‘80s heavy metal album covers, the story follows two Germonauts forced to fight other-dimensional beasts in order to amuse the extremely bored Lichtgod. From there, you set out on 13 levels, each with about five segments filled with wave after wave of beasts after your blood.
Compared to the story, the gameplay has a simple concept: throw your arcing lightspear to kill foes. Helpful guide arrows indicate your trajectory, allowing you to aim your projectile carefully. Otherwise, that’s about it. You’re not even allowed to move on your own and are instead locked onto one side of the screen or in the middle. The entire game is built upon you standing still and killing foes with spears before they can kill you. And while it is restrictive, I actually embraced that my wins didn’t depend on my ability to move gracefully but rather on my aim being true and my reflexes being sharp. It plays like a cross between Angry Birds and a tower defense game, which, despite what you think of either, delivers fast-paced thrills.
Lichtspeer’s adrenaline sensation comes in part through the brutal difficulty. The first few areas aren’t tough, and most enemies approach you at a leisurely pace. But it quickly ramps up in difficulty midgame. Suddenly, half a dozen enemies are coming your way, with a couple of airborne foes flying at you and another set firing missiles. It progressively becomes harder to survive each wave, and you must start an entire segment over after a single death. Though this penalty sounds harsh, each segment is roughly a minute or two long, so deaths rarely feel unfair. In fact, I was determined after each loss and pondered what I could do differently next time to achieve success. Since enemy placements are exactly the same every time you restart, it’s easy to get into a groove of muscle memory, which fans of other twitch reflex games like Punch-Out!! can appreciate.
Other arcade elements come together well here. For one, how you hit enemies influences your score. Land a longshot or consecutive headshots, and you’ll rack up points. It’s exhilarating to achieve perfectly honed spear throws, and even more satisfying when you consider some enemies are only vulnerable to headshots. Miss an enemy even once and any score multipliers reset. If you miss three times, you will lose control for a few seconds while the Lichtgod’s disembodied head yells “NEIN!” at you.
Luckily, you can bring up to three power-ups, each with its own cooldown timer, and they are a joy to use. Firing off a last second burst of energy that decimates the field or activating a shield right before death gave me a rush. The dozen power-ups are well-thought out and are designed to complement different playstyles. These abilities and upgrades require you to earn high scores, which are then converted to the game’s currency or Licht Speer Denomination…which shortens to the acronym… Oh Lichtspeer, your shame knows no bounds.
All is not perfect in “das world” of Lichtspeer, however. For one, throwing spears for the entire game gets repetitive, particularly during long bouts of playtime. I had to take breaks between stages to refresh. To the game’s credit, it does a great job of shaking things up to offset the tedium. Enemies come in a lot of distinct flavors: power-disabling sorcerers, slope-sliding walruses, and cannon-firing penguins ramp up both difficulty and bizarreness, not to mention the interesting stage gimmicks like hitting switches or fighting in the dark. Even altering the firing location made a difference; aiming at an incline or from the middle with enemies coming at both sides changed up my playstyle.
Some of those moments were frustrating, though, due to the controls. You are limited to using the control stick to aim and can’t use the more precise d-pad or touchscreen. I would sometimes shift the stick to the left and suddenly be pointing my spear upwards – not at all helpful. This problem is most prominent in boss fights, where exact precision is necessary for survival. While I found the boss encounters to be very creative challenges, they were a bit too unforgiving, especially given the control scheme’s unreliability.
Otherwise, the game is a fun, albeit short, trip. A number of modes increase replay value, most notably the Nintendo Switch exclusive co-op mode, in which the second player controls a spear-throwing flying dog. What, were you expecting it to make sense? Not only is it a blast to team up and lay waste, but the game actively produces situations where teamwork is essential. For example, there are color-coded switches that only one of the players can activate to stop a laser or teleport out of harm’s way. Those levels become an exercise in patience unless both players are pro spear throwers. New Game+ and Rage Quit mode round out the package. The latter is appropriately named and returns you all the way to the beginning, and not an individual segment, after each loss. Although you could find replayability in increasing high scores or achieving individual stage missions, I had little desire to keep going after my first playthrough.
Presentation-wise, everything stands out, from the geometric landscapes, cartoonish triangle blood, and ‘80s-inspired Germanic characters. I could tell that the animators loved sculpting this off-kilter world, which you should know, includes an entire disco-themed area. The soundtrack is a mix of techno and what can only be described as synthesized Viking music. The first world’s tune was catchy, but the rest of the soundtrack quickly grew repetitive. At least it was always satisfying to hear my futuristic
Lichtspeer: Double Speer Edition is proud of what it is and has every right to be. Though its constant spear-throwing gameplay borders on repetitive, the numerous enemies, entertaining arcade elements, and brutal difficulty deliver a much more fulfilling experience than you’d expect. The exclusive co-op mode adds to the fun even if it doesn’t add any substance for those who’ve already experienced this game on other systems. If you’re the kind of person that loves attempting perfect runs and reflex-based twitch gameplay, then Lichtspeer may satisfy that urge. But as the game outright warns you: “Prepare to die. A lot.”
I am a lifelong gamer, having grown up with Nintendo since I was young. My passion for gaming led to one of the greatest moments of my life, my video game themed wedding!