Video Games have a means of changing the very expectations we can have of a genre. Mechanics can evolve in different ways and reinvent themselves altogether. In arcade games, for example, there was a time when shooting games took place entirely as side-scrollers, such as Contra. Today, shooters are fully 3D, feature movie-quality cinematic cutscenes, and feature a wide variety of combat options. But, sometimes, you don’t need cutting-edge hardware to create new mechanics. Sometimes, it just takes a moment to rethink a game and then go beyond expectations. This is the case, of a very unique and incredibly eclectic game, known as Lichtspeer, from Polish-based Crunching Koalas. Lichtspeer takes a very simple game mechanic, turns it on its head, adds an incredibly vivid presentation, and puts in great controls for an addictive, engaging good time.
It is said that life is short, but also terrifying. therefore, if there is someone you love, say it to them, but only in German. That is the world of Lichtspeer, which takes place in an 80’s inspired, psychedelic and surreal German mythical fantasy beyond the afterlife. You have been chosen to prove yourself to the Gods, by defeated armies of mutants, trolls, and blood-thirsty creatures hell-bent on ruthlessly killing you. Your only weapon is a neon-colored purple spear, known as the Lichtspeer. As the Gods warn, you will die mercilessly, and quite often. However, the payoff is immortality and to be among the Gods. From then on, you are sent on your quest across this wonderfully realized landscape.
There are 13 levels in Lichtspeer, with each level divided into 6 zones. The levels span all sorts of environments, from frozen crystal palaces to laser-scorched deserts. At each of these zones, players can expect to face hundreds upon hundreds of enemies, oftentimes all at once. These enemies range from typical trolls and mutants to missile-launching walruses and cannibalistic penguins. Some enemies fly airships to drops bombs and others deploy energy canisters to speed up the enemy coming towards you. Where these enemies come from and how they approach you changes within each zone, diversifying the experience. Additionally, 13 levels may sound lite, but the ability to replay the levels in New Game Plus and Rage Quit mode is certainly more than enough incentive to play again.
Players fight these enemies with their spears, of course. However, there are set within a certain spot on the map. While they are stationary, players can wield the special powers of the spear, dispensing neon-soaked justice upon the enemies. Players move the spear in various directions and control the strength to which the spear is thrown. As the wielder of the spear, players must throw the spear and successfully dispatch their enemies. While this may sound simple, the experience is far from it.
The spear is no ordinary spear, as it grants special powers to its user. Players can activate shields, throw bomb-tipped spears, and even launch powerful laser blasts to vaporize enemies. The spear also has unlimited ammunition, so there are no worries about running out of spears. However, this all comes at a price. If players miss three consecutive times in a row, the Gods will punish the players with a several second freeze, immobilizing the player’s character. While it may not seem like much, speed and accuracy are quintessential to survival in Lichtspeer. Those precious three seconds can be enough time to kill the player. Additionally, special abilities will take some time to recharge after each use, making their uses very strategic.
Playing Lichtspeer is a damn great time, even in the face of its often sheer, uphill difficulty. Throwing certain doom upon your enemies, and seeing them fall by the dozens, is an absolutely incredible feeling. Enemies will come, confident in your demise, only to be felled by the power of your spear. Using your special abilities feels fantastic, and at times, you truly feel like the chosen prodigy, destined to rid the evil from the world of Lichtspeer. However, the game will flip the script, which enhances the experience but also makes the game more challenging.
Players will often be stationed at the left side of the screen, but there are surprising moments, where players are placed in different stations. In some levels, players will be placed in the middle of the stage, fighting enemies on two sides. Other times, players will be stationed don the right side of the screen, which re-works gamers’ brains as they shoot in a direction they are not often used to. Some zones require players to multitask, destroying certain traps while fighting off enemies. Finally, there are the boss fights, which are quite challenging, requiring unerring accuracy. However, there is a constant sense of reward, with each zone conquered, and each boss defeated.
Accompanying Lichstpeers is a perfectly fit visual and audio presentation. Visually, the game was born out of the brightly-colored illustrations from the 1980’s from movie posters to album artworks. The game is visually remarkable and leaves a memorable mark on players. The soundtrack is composed by artist Marcin Sonnenberg, featuring a collection of pulsating digital sound effects, on par with disco tracks and dance music. The soundtrack matches the chaotic beauty of the game and is a blast to listen to, even in the face of deadly enemies.
Recently released was the PS Vita version of the game, which features cross-buy and cross-save support for the game. The PS Vita version is nearly identical to the PS4 version. In addition to being able to take the experience with you on the go, the game looks and sounds absolutely fantastic. The cross save feature means that that players can store their progress to a cloud, and continue their progress anywhere they go.
Lichtspeer is an incredibly satisfying action arcade game, from the incredible presentation to the immensely satisfying action. I was absolutely immersed in the frenzied and beautifully realized chaos of Das Lichtspeer and hope that more games like this come to fruition throughout the industry. Lichtspeer is Das Awesome!