Saturday, September 9, 2017

Review: Lichtspeer - Double Speer Edition


There’s something to be said for a game design that aims for doing one thing incredibly well and ensuring every opportunity around that element is exhausted. Lichtspeer, with its hyper-focus on the core mechanic of simply aiming and throwing your laser speer, does just that. It tries to inject humor, an interesting art style, some truly bizarre bosses, and outright brutal challenges to help extend the experience but your ability to aim and throw the speer is always at the center of the experience. How much mileage you’re able to get out of the game, then, is dependent on how well you’re able to master your technique and keep yourself entertained with its quirkiness.

Before the game even begins you will be warned to be aware that essentially nothing you see will make much sense, and that’s OK. You’ll start your journey as the chosen Champion called to service of the Lichtgods to go forth and kill and die... for their amusement. Never for a moment is there any doubt, as they mock you while getting you started, that this will be an experience not quite like anything else you’ve played before.


While you’ll always primarily use your trusty speer to take down your enemies that isn’t to say you won’t be able to get some upgrades to periodically get you out of a jam along the way. You’ll start out with access to the Tri-Speer attack, allowing you to press B once you’ve thrown a speer to split it into 3. While it has a pretty long cooldown to start you’ll be able to upgrade to make it quicker. In addition there are numerous other skill choices that will provide additional offensive and defensive options. These can all be slowly purchased with LSD (I kid you not, though it is an acronym), which you’ll accumulate in relation to your score as you progress through stages. The higher you’re able to score, the quicker you’ll be able to upgrade yourself and provide a little room to breathe if your accuracy starts to go south on you, and with the challenges in store that will definitely happen with regularity. Special to the Switch edition of the game you can have a companion drop in to help, and they’ll be able to throw a speer of their own, but that is only so much help unless the person you’re playing with is almost as good at it as you are.

In principle it is all relatively simple. If you see something coming towards you, you’ll want to put a speer through it. While body shots will often kill smaller enemies with one hit in general you’ll quickly learn the benefits of aiming for the head. First, headshots are always one-shot kills, which buys you some time and breathing room when things get tense. Second, you’ll rack up multipliers and bonuses for headshots, even more if you’re able to score them consecutively. Third, there’s something satisfying about seeing a hipster giant taken down or a weird zombie have its head explode with a little geyser of blood erupting from its neck. It’s the little things that can be satisfying. Where the challenge ramps up is when the game begins throwing curveballs at you like enemies above or below you, things like those freaking fish from hell that are small and hard to hit, or enemies that fire projectiles among other things. Throwing upwards or downwards makes for much more challenging angles, especially when you still have other enemies coming at you head-on. That’s where the challenge begins to come into play and you’ll begin to die… a lot.


Even if you’re on a killing spree once you get maybe 2 or 3 misses in a row it all begins to unravel in a hurry. It turns out the Lichtgods don’t look kindly on your repeated failures and will punish you briefly for your inadequacy. You’ll also be stunned if you get hit by an enemy wizard’s projectile. I suppose you can be thankful that’s one of the few things that won’t kill you (just about everything in the game that touches you does), but these various ways you get stunned all set the stage for your rapid failure if you’re not careful. Due to the number of enemies on the screen as you progress, and the rate at which some of them will come at you, you can’t afford to carefully line up every shot. At the same time, though, you can’t just let your speers fly for fear of missing with too many and being stunned. It is your central struggle in the game and that’s where those additional skills come into play, usually giving you a window to breathe and hope you can get your act together. Note that those skills can’t help you against the game’s often-challenging bosses though. I suppose to level the playing field and up the challenge against the game’s bosses you’ll need to figure out what you need to do to kill them and it will often require you to be extremely accurate with your shots while also under heavy pressure. It does make it satisfying when you take them down, but nothing in the game is ever easy.

The question for you when considering Lichtspeer is whether you enjoy being challenged and whether you mind that the game ultimately revolves around getting very good at aiming and firing your speer. If you think you could say yes to both of these items there’s several hours of enjoyment to be had with the game, and you most certainly will be challenged over the course of playing it. If you finish the base stages you’ll be able to go for completing Game+ mode with even more enemies coming your way. If even that isn’t quite enough challenge for you feel free to take on the appropriately-named Rage Quit mode that will forcee you to complete the stages with no checkpoints. I tried and failed spectacularly, there’s always some bastard that breaks through at some point. For the right people I have no doubt Lichtspeer will be a good time, but I also would quickly say it isn’t for everyone.


Score: 6.5

Pros:
  • The game’s sense of humor and quirkiness help to numb the pain of your failures
  • The art style, though minimal, is pretty cool
  • Some very cool and distinctive boss battles


Cons:
  • After a while the veneer of fun wears thin and there’s simply not a lot to the game
  • Enemies like the fish and the walrus are enormously aggravating at times
  • Sometimes the game crosses the line from just being very hard to feeling unfair


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