Lichtspeer had all the components for a great arcade “reverse angry birds” game. You predominately throw spears, while stationary, at hilariously designed Germanic creatures and try to eviscerate their faces with their own blood. Alright, I may have gone a bit too far but that is essentially the point of this game. Sadly, certain design choices and technical slip-ups kept Lichtspeer from being a title that wants you to play it for over one hundred hours. Yes, there is a trophy that requires you to play the title for that long.
You play as a chosen hero who must traverse the lands and kill creatures all for the entertainment of German gods. You can choose between male and female characters and select from a dozen names for each gender. Consequently, this will end up being the name of your save file. Then a disembodied head appears demanding you kill for its entertainment. If you refuse or fail the god will punish you. So you have no choice but to annihilate things that reside in the places you are sent.
The premise is as simple as the art design. It’s a very 80’s, neon inspired piece that does the good ol’ days of gaming proud. The level backgrounds and world maps are nice, static, and straightforward in their colors and shapes. Plus, the sound effects are pretty sweet whenever you get a headshot chain or anger the licht gods. All and all it’s a perfect fit for the side-scrolling, puzzle-esque adventure. Although the side-scrolling is only done when you complete each section of a level and the game controls it.
I know I used the word in the last paragraph but the gameplay is pretty simple too. Each level consists of sections that must be cleared out before moving on to the next area. You are either placed at one of the two edges of the screen or in the middle. Enemies will appear from wherever you’re not and charge at you. They will try to reach you and if they do you’re dead. You can’t move or survive more than one hit before being killed in some gruesome fashion. The only thing holding them back is your Lichtspeer which was given to you by the god from earlier.
It’s a pretty, pink throwing device that impales, gorges, and decapitates foes. You have to manually aim and line it up with the on-screen arrows that show you where you’re throwing. In addition, there are some sweet upgradables that allow your godly weapon to become stronger. There is an ability that splits your “speer” into multiple in midair, another that turns the “speer” into hammers, and even a shield that temporarily protects you. As you complete more levels, kill more monsters, and string together more headshots, you’ll earn money to purchase the rest of the unlockables.
Your prey, who are probably only defending their homeland, will continue to get stronger as well. They come in all shapes and sizes but the more you progress, the more armor or objects they acquire. I mean there are viking penguins who eventually fly a blimp that drops more enemies or powerups for their brethren. Things like that and believe me they get ridiculous. They’re great to look at but not so great to go up against. Regardless, the amount of enemies and variations Lichtspeer has will keep you on your toes. For better or worse.
This is where the problems will eventually come into play. There are many different ways the unique monstrosities can come at you. Some walk to you both fast and slow, others fly towards you, and others fire projectiles. All very simple once again. However, the amount of enemies thrown at you or their positioning within objects will drive you crazy at times. I felt overwhelmed way more than I should have to the point that one wrong throw would mean death. There was one boss battle especially that only gave you a very small window of opportunity multiple times. If you didn’t hit the minuscule target within a literal second, expect to start the entire thing over again. Another time there were enemies operating machinery completely off-screen. I had to guess where they were, while other enemies were charging me, or die.
The second prominent issue I noticed was the hit detection of the “speer” itself. You throw the mystical weapon in an arch so it’s natural for a badly aimed attack to miss. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was aiming it and not hitting your target. Too many times did I fire my pink WMD with such confidence and look away, only to hear a thud and miss. 99.9% of the time I was sure my aim was true but it didn’t always play out like that. As I mentioned, sometimes one wrong move can end your run and these problems don’t help.
Make no mistake and let me be clear. The core gameplay that Lichtspeer offers is great fun. I enjoyed harpooning everything in sight and leaving bloody piles of dead, innocent animals. Ok maybe took it a bit too far again. It’s just that unfair level design holds this game back from being truly extraordinary.
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