"Press Up to Raus."

After a quick opening cutscene, maybe around ten seconds or so, you're faced with a screen that shows a boat, an open sky, and the text, "Press Up to Raus." No other text, no other options available to you. And when you press teh button, your plane bursts out of the ship and left to fly around outside of its safe zone as an increasingly ridiculous amount of enemies swarm in and shoot you.

You survive as long as you can, taking out swarms of enemy planes, but eventually it gets to be too much. Your ship explodes. You go down, and you're at the results screen where new equipment and new ways to outfit your plane are unlocked, allowing you to get back out there and avenge yourself.

It's difficult to make a game like this that's actually enticing enough to come back and play it for a long time. After all, there's only one map, one mode, and one outcome. You'll burst from your ship, kill what you can to get a high score, and die no matter how well you're doing. Enemies will keep ramping up, eventually pulling in submarines and blimps, and hammer you until you explode.

But you're always unlocking new ship parts, and each part has a ton of challenges to complete that help you level up and unlock more parts. I do wish that the game did a better job of telling you what gates these unlocks (there's just the image of a lock and doesn't explain what needs to be done), but when you get something new, it's exciting to see how it can change your playstyle. The music changes with each different combination as well, and the driving, militaristic score is a part of the joy of trying out each combination.

Everyone will have their own ideas for what the best way to play Luftrausers is, and there are unlockables that suit everyone's style. If you like doing lots of damage, prefer to just shoot more and then get out of way immediately, or simply screwing around with random effects and figuring it out as you go, there are options for you.

And this all turns Luftrausers into a series of "Oh man, did you see what I just did?!" moments, where you burst from the water and take out a series of enemies, or cut the thrusters and fly between a huge stream of bullets. There's over 125 different combinations for you to try, each offering a slightly unique play style. Everyone will have their own "best" ship and their own strategy, and a leaderboard will display the ship that people used to get their best scoring runs.

I really liked the way scoring works in


as well because it's entirely combo based. The higher a combo you get the more you score with every kill, so if you want to get a really high score, you'll have to do a lot of enemy health management and risk/reward consideration. You're at max multiplier, so do you try to take out the battleship and risk dying or not killing it fast enough and losing it? Should you try to weaken it so it's a couple of hits from death and then try to get more multiplier and try again?

Much of this game forces you to make split-second decisions based on how the mechanics interact with each other. You can only heal when you're not firing; firing affects turn speed; you can cut the engine and just drift, but your weapon might change your momentum and start propelling your backwards. Your constant switching between firing and thrusting and coasting and well-timed dodges under water or into cloud cover to escape a flurry of bullets is a thrill every time you go in and try again. Even if you only kill a couple of enemies and die immediately, it's an immensely satisfying experience.

I didn't expect to find Luftrausers so enjoyable, especially after playing one of Vlambeer's previous games and found it highly lacking. But Luftrausers is filled with constant upgrades and unlocks, and enough randomness that even just being set on a single map never gets old. It's a constant thrill, one that can steal away a whole afternoon but still satisfy you even after a couple of rounds.