Game Review: Lichtspeer (PS Vita)

Lichtspeer is an unusual beast and is one of the more bizarre games I’ve played and experienced on the PS Vita in recent months. On reading up on the game prior to playing it, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the developers, Lichthund, aren’t quite all there but getting past that insanity lies a hidden gem…

Set in what the developers describe as being an ancient Germanic future (yeah, I was already confused at this point myself as well), you have been summoned by the Gods to become a warrior, a champion and defeat everything in your path. Not feeling much like a warrior, you’re helped along when the Gods present you with an immense weapon – the legendary Lichtspeer. This deadly lightspear is all that stands between life and death for you so press on weary adventurer.

What proceeds from here is something that has clearly been inspired by games such as Angry Birds and titles that came before it, but with a greater emphasis on arcade action. You aim your spear as you would in Angry Birds using the left stick, set your fire strength with X and then let go to fire. Fire at what? Each level is made up of several stages and these are infested with hordes of creates set out to kill you. They come at you ad infinitum and you have to simply keep killing them until the final one of your adversaries drop to their knees. Bonus points are awarded for headshots (nice) and as you progress there are some creatures that require different tactics to defeat them – headshots, multiple hits and so on.

I mention Angry Birds, but there is a lot more to it than that. You have a near unlimited amount of shots at your disposal but if you miss too many times in a row you are penalised and you are forced to wait a few seconds before firing again. It may only be a short time, but it could be just long enough for an adversary to get close enough to kill you.

Despite it’s initially simplistic look when you first see the game (and when you look at the screenshots here), it’s incredibly well animated and looks stunning. Still images really don’t do it justice and I hate to think how many people who pass this over just because of that. The visuals go beyond the basic detail animation though as it’s notably more gruesome than it’s airborne rival. Shoot an opponent and there’s a satisfying splatter of bloody but when they get to you… well, you can die in a wide number of interesting and quite bloody and brutal ways.

So moving back to the game and as you progress you’ll earn points (naturally) for each kill, with bonuses on accuracy, headshots and more. These can be used in the shop that is unlocked after you complete the first level. In here you can spend your points on upgrades to your existing weapon / special attacks (such as the triple spear that you can use on a limited number of occasions throughout play) or buy new ones to add to your arsenal. These can be used at any time during play but each needs time to recharge between use so use them wisely.

Once you have completed a level you’re presented with details of your score, the percentage breakdown of your hits plus (and most importantly) records of how many of the levels goals you managed to achieve. Each level has three goals you can aim for in addition to trying to just complete it through to the end boss but each goal offers additional bonuses.

The game has an incredibly tough difficulty curve. The early stages are fairly gentle and teach you the basics of the game without throwing too much at you so you can cope with everything going on, but by the time you get to the end of the first level you’ll be frantically tugging at your hair in frustration trying to react to everything going on around you. The pace doesn’t let up for a moment and it keeps you on your toes throughout.

You do get short breaks to catch your breath between each attack wave so treasure these moments as you’ll never know what’s coming next. One moment you’ll be under attack from a Hipster Ice Giant, the next it’s a Penguin Viking but all have one thing in common. None of them want to come over and be your best friend. Each has their own different attacking styles and pace of movement as well so you have to adjust your tactics while you play making the gameplay even more frantic.

Visually the game is superb and has a retro feel but with a clean, crisp modern edge to it. Not quite cel-shaded but I’d say a better defined and more modernised version of Flashback but with a faster paced game engine. Sound is just as good with a synth 80s retro inspired soundtrack. To be honest I was expecting something a little more medieval to fit in with the games theme, but it works well.

As for the game itself, it is difficult. Aiming can be frustrating at times and as with all games of this nature getting the shot strength and angle just right takes a lot of practice, but with the added pressure of coming under attack and having adversaries progressing towards you, you really do feel the pressure constantly and it’s easy to crack. There are no lives though so when you get shot, are killed by a deadly fish being dropped on your head (I kid you not!), or have one of your opponents grab you you’re faced with a somewhat gruesome death. One life. That’s it.

It’s not as bleak as it seems though. You can immediately carry on from that stage and try again and this is what makes the game so compelling. No matter how many times you die, you keep feeling that the next time you’ll beat that stage or complete the level so you keep coming back for more. If you do decide to quit – or at least for that gaming session – the game automatically saves at the start of the stage you were on so you don’t even have to play the rest of that level again, you just pick up exactly where you left off. Other games should take note.

It’s a fantastic and fiendishly addictive game and loaded with plenty of extra touches that really help it stand out. Restart points as I mentioned aren’t important but once you use them here you’ll wonder why you’ve played games so long without them and just accepted it as being the norm. As an added bonus, it is released as Cross Buy for the PS4 as well so you get both versions for the price of one and we’ve already taken a look at the PS4 version of Lichtspeer on our sister site Infinite Frontiers. The final icing on the cake is the Cross Save functionality between the Vita and PS4 as well. With such addictive and challenging gameplay, this is something you won’t want to miss out on.

At A Glance

  • Title: Lichtspeer
  • Publisher: Crunching Koalas
  • Format: PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: Yes (PS4)
  • Cross Play: No
  • Cross Save: Yes
  • Multiplayer: No
  • Memory Card Space Required: 364Mb (version 1.01)
  • PlayStation TV Compatible: TBC

Vita Player Rating - 08

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