Lichtspeer doesn't try anything too revolutionary. Its premise is simple; throw spears at incoming enemies to kill them. Once you kill all the enemies in one stage, you move on to the next one. However, it's the little things that prevent Lichtspeer from feeling like anything else you've played before. The game is filled with subtle humor, great diversity in enemies and small changes to map layouts that make all the difference in the end.
Lichtspeer puts you in the shoes of a character from a Germanic spacetime. Your job is simply to please the mighty Lichtgods by fighting waves of hostile enemies armed only with your lichtspeer, all for the amusement of these same gods. No, there's not much story in Lichtspeer, but that probably works to the game's advantage. In Lichtspeer, gameplay is king.
Armed with just your lichtspeer, it's time to take down some enemies. To do so, all you need to do is move the analog stick up or down (same applies with the mouse on PC) to fix the angle and arc of your spear and hold down one single button to charge up the throw. Then, all you have to do is release. Seems simple enough, and it is for the first few levels. However, as the game begins to throw more enemies at you in different environments and situations, the simple premise grows very deep.
The next phase of battle might happen at an upward angle, for example. Now you need to account for that. The physics of the way the spear flies is logical, but that doesn't make it any easier. Some enemies can only be killed if you strike them in a certain area of their body, which adds yet another layer of depth to the game. Add on top of that lasers that need to be shut off and missiles that need to be shot out of the sky and you have yourself a game that is now much more than just chucking some spears at a couple of zombies.
Variety is really Lichtspeer's bread and butter. There are seemingly dozens of different types of enemies, and different combinations of them can make for endless challenges. For example, there is a particularly tough enemy in the game that comes in the form of a seal with a rocket launcher. Their rockets are shot at you periodically and they need to be shot out of the sky, which is not an easy task. If you manage to shoot the seal, then you won't have to worry about them anymore. However, if the game keeps producing bunches of giants that block your line of sight and prevent you from getting a clear shot off on the seal, then you've got quite the problem on your hands. While the developers could have simply thrown more seal enemies at you instead, this solution is much better from a game design perspective. It turns Lichtspeer away from just being a simple spear-throwing simulator and turns it into something much more puzzle-like.
That's not to say that the game doesn't fall into some predictable tropes every now and again. While the developers often find a way to keep the game interesting, there are some levels where it truly does feel like they are just flooding your screen with enemies and hoping you find a way to manage. This is often when the game is most frustrating, and it's hard to even call these areas difficulty spikes.
There are areas in the game where it just feels like you need to complete everything perfectly to pass. Where every enemy seemingly needs to be killed on the first try, no matter how impossible it might seem. While most areas can be solved like a puzzle, these levels demand pinpoint accuracy and you'll need to practically memorize the waves of emerging enemies so you can act accordingly. The same applies to a majority of the boss battles, too. While boss battles had the potential to break up the flow of the game in a positive way, I found that more often that not I was dreading them rather than looking forward to them. Lichtenspeer's lows were often much more memorable that its highs, which is truly unfortunate.
The only real remedy for some of these issues is Lichtspeer's abilities system. You can have with you up to three abilities equipped at once. These abilities can do things like split one spear into three and slow down time. While useful, the best abilities often have the longest cooldowns, which means you can't rely on them. While frustrating in the moment, it makes sense. You shouldn't be able to constantly use them as a bailout when you get into tough situations. They should add to the puzzle element that I've talked about, and they do. It is just as important to strategically save or use your abilities as it is to get good shots off on enemies, and this knowledge comes with planning and practice. It's a neat feature that is easy to overlook, but important nonetheless.
There are also some smaller things in Lichtspeer that really add to the game's appeal and are worth mentioning. Firstly, the soundtrack. Even as a person who doesn't normally enjoy techno-whatever music, I still couldn't help enjoying the sounds of Lichtspeer. Even the smaller sound effects add to the overall aesthetic of the game. Speaking of aesthetic, it's hard not to love the art style of Lichtspeer, too. It's vibrant and neon colors never get old, while the retro designs of the environments and characters constantly keep you interested in what you might see next.
When Lichtspeer is at its best, it's great. When it's at its worst, it downright frustrating, and not the rewarding kind of frustrating. From a design perspective, the game is truly something special most of the time, even though its premise may seem simple. Variety is its biggest asset, and it capitalizes on that wonderfully. Still, even with all that Lichtspeer has going for it, I can't recommend it as a "must buy." This is the kind of game that is pretty much exactly what it looks like. If you are looking for something arcadey to add to your library, then yes, this might be the game for you. However, if you are looking for something meatier, then you might want to hold off. With Lichtspeer, what you see is what you get, but the overall quality of the game is still top-notch.
Lichtspeer was reviewed on PlayStation 4 with a copy provided by the developer. It is also available on PC (Affiliate), Mac, and Linux via Steam. It will be coming to PlayStation Vita in the future.
Lichtspeer is based around a very simple premise; throw spears at enemies to kill them. While the gameplay stays consistent throughout, the variety of different enemies and situations thrown at the player gives the game a surprising amount of depth, even if some levels seem unimaginative and/or repetitive.(Review Policy)
- Great Soundtrack and Art Style
- Tons of Enemy and Map Variety
- Simple Premise Expanded Upon in Creative Ways
- Occasionally Frustrating Level Design
- Boss Battles Don't Live Up To Their Full Potential