Lichtspeer PS4 Review
The Lichtgod is bored. I suppose eventually even infinity becomes drone when you’re immortal. To amuse itself it bestows a holy weapon of great power, the Lichtspeer (spear of light), upon some random ABBA-member-lookalike and sends them off to fight for their life against all sorts of angry creatures. From penguins to zombies and cyclopses (cyclops? cyclopsi?) to fish; everything wants a piece of our ‘hero’ and the only defence is throwing spears at their faces. Unable to move during battle puts the focus on accuracy and quick-thinking. Besides power ups the player can only change the angle of trajectory and fire. It is this single, simple mechanic around which the entire game bases itself and it gets pretty creative in the use of it.
Perhaps overused, but the phrase ‘easy to play, hard to master’ just happens to describe Lichtspeer perfectly. The game boils down to 1; assess the situation and pick out the biggest current threat, then 2; adjust the throwing angle as necessary to get the divine javelin to place majestically in their skull (if the current threat is a creature, that is). After that it’s back to step 1 and repeat – there’s not even enough time to make sure the mark was hit because the next throw needs to already be in the air. There’s barely enough time to fleetingly praise yourself as you notice a target getting eliminated through peripheral vision. Thoughts outside of the next move are mere distractions, making Lichtspeer oddly zen for how frustrating it can be. Frustrating in a good way, of course. The kind of annoyance that you are forced to overcome – you need to win
To be fair the game does start off easy, if you selected normal mode at least, and ramps up sneakily until you have no idea how you arrived at a stage where enemies now come from both sides, dudes with shields block your throws, and penguins in towers are trying to snipe you with harpoon guns. The difficulty continues to be increased in three ways – enemies; both in complexity and sheer amount, character placement; meaning you can be forced to fight on ramps and on the right side of the screen (like a mirror mode) etc which completely scrubs clean all previous experience, and stage hazards; with obstacles like slow-moving laser cannons, that will eventually vaporise you if they aren’t shut down in time. Although, power-ups can be purchased and upgraded to help with those tougher sections, or at least to allow a mistake every now and then.
There are three types of power ups, with one of each type being able to be equipped at a time. My preferred setup was the splitter, allowing me to break the spear into several to cover an bigger area, the slow down time to help me breathe for those pin-point shots, and the one that sends up columns of destruction and can almost clear a screen. I chose these because they had the shortest cool downs and I like to use them often and accurately instead of having a few hail Marys that could only be used once a level. That is until the boss fights, which ban the use of power-ups and force the player to rely on the skill they’ve gained alone, which I quite enjoyed. I like to think of bosses as a test, so why not test the player to the fullest?
Besides the need to be precise to take down threats in the order necessary to not become completely overrun, there’s the added penalty of losing the ability to fight for a few moments if three shots in a row are missed, or even blocked by enemy shields. There will be no spam-throwing here. Playing on a controller, which I did, of course means you can only steadily aim, further cementing the need for mastery of efficient throws. I imagine it would be considerably easier using a mouse, especially for those later stages that demand perfection. And if the thirteen stages, including a boss at just about the end of every other stage isn’t enough, the madness gets turned up to eleven with New Game+. From the get go come a stream of end-game monsters that deliver absolutely no mercy. It. Is. Awesome.
Lichtspeer is by no means a masterpiece. It won’t change the face of gaming or be crowned Game of the Year 2016 but it is that perfect little game that sometimes you just need. It puts fun above all else and I loved it. The short length focussed around re-playability through special objectives for each level and new powers to play with feels right. The story that can be told in a single sentence doesn’t get in the way of gameplay. The graphics are simple, yet stylish, reminding me a little of Guacamelee. The music is enjoyable, upbeat techno that suits the theme and continued to hold my interest. It just all comes together in a neat package, begging to be played on a slow afternoon. Kick back and be challenged for a few hours. Let everything else fade away and Lichtspeer.