September 27, 2016 11:46 AM | Thomas Faust
While sitting with a glass of water at a coffee place, cherishing its free WiFi and contemplating the current state of world affairs, Bart Pieczonka, one half of game dev duo Lichthund, had an idea: "Why make complicated games that are not fun, that layer mechanics which don't work well together and are there just to mask the gameplay shortcomings?" So he decided to make a simple game, a game with a pure arcadey heart - fast, fun, instantly gratifying. Something that's easy to learn, yet difficult to master. And thus, Lichtspeer was born.
Lichtspeer is an "action arcade lightspear-throwing simulator." However, reducing the game to its rather simple mechanics doesn't quite do it justice. You are stationary while all kinds of enemies rush towards you. You aim your spear, throw, and hopefully catch them right in the face before they get to you. If they do, you have to try again from the beginning of the stage. The game tries to shake up the formula now and again - with enemies that shoot back, devastating attacks that have to be stopped before they can be executed, and the occasional boss fight - but at the end of the day it is a rather simplistic affair.
However, this doesn't mean that it's boring - far from it, actually. For one thing, the difficulty feels just right. Yes, you will die repeatedly, and you'll probably hurl the occasional insult towards the screen, but that's what kept me highly motivated to play on. I can only imagine the amount of punishment that the other, unlockable difficulties dish out. Perish the thought!
Ultimately, Lichtspeer is obviously all about style over substance. The game's looks are bound to turn heads and cause some incredulous chuckling. Strong lines and sharp edges abound; there's a general feeling of otherworldly sternness present. This is countered by an overabundance of neon, which clashes nicely with the harsh backgrounds and adds a weird 80s vibe to it all. And then, the characters: wurst zombies, hipster ice giants, evil stormdwarves, and pegahund zombies - Lichtspeer certainly has one of the weirdest, most absurd casts in recent gaming memory. Add to that some of the most outrageous uses of horribly mangled German words: "new fantastisch highscore," "super brillen," "das Lichtgod," "go home and eat Strudel!" It is amazing, really.
The game may look super-weird, but according to Pieczonka, there's a valid reason for that: "We were both growing up in the 90s in a post-communist Poland at a time of a giant cultural and social change, The cartoons we watched, the movies we saw, the music we listened to was all a mix of western influences from the 70s, 80 and 90 all flooding in at once. We watched a ton of VHS b-movies, often imported from Germany, the closest western country. That meant me as a 6-year-old watching Star Wars in German. It was all fantastic to us. We wanted to use that bizarre cultural mixture and express it in Lichtspeer. It might seem abstract and pointless, but in reality, it celebrates a unique mixture of cultures."
You can feel this mixture in every single aspect of Lichtspeer. In the game's world, nothing ever really makes sense, nothing is fully coherent. And that's why it works so well. Lichtspeer is a glorious victory of style over substance, and it manages to be fun as well. Super fantastisch!
You can purchase Lichtspeer directly from the developer or from Steam for $9.99. There's also a PS4 version on the PSN Store, and a PS Vita version will be released soon. For more information, visit the game's website or follow developers Lichthund on Twitter.