Lichtspeer: Double Speer Edition Review
A stylishly fun and zany foray into battle
Sometimes a game will just immediately stand out from the sheer wackiness of its premise. Developer Lichthund’s ballistic shooter, Lichtspeer: Double Speer Edition, would certainly fall under this category. The game seems to run the gamut in terms of covering elements people find cool - Ancient mythology, Medieval warfare, and Sci-Fi dystopian settings populated with Vikings, zombies, and giants. It’s an utter hodgepodge of random themes and characteristics, tied together with a retro-futuristic 80’s aesthetic, and rocking techno-beats that will make you go from “huh?” to, “huh.. this is actually kind of fun.”
Once you’ve grown accustomed to the weird blend of trippy sci-fi (complete with some cutesy semi-Germanic dialogue), Scandinavian mythology - and a bizarre cast of baddies that range from hipster ice giants to zombies in tuxes - the game proves somewhat more one-dimensional. There isn’t a great deal of substance here to measure up to the zany artistic flair and epic themes. The gameplay essentially hinges on standing in place while you continually hurl spears at waves of enemies; some that saunter, and others that dash towards you. Still, within these limited parameters, Lichtspeer functions well enough, providing a satisfying, mechanically sound ballistic shooter experience that rewards you for raw skill.
Largely in the same vein as Angry Birds or Castlestorm, trajectory and timing are everything, and I do mean everything in this game. Your spear is your primary - well really, your only weapon, but thankfully you’re granted an infinite amount of them to toss within the roughly dozen or so multi-phased stages. This is only fair though, seeing that you’re locked in place the entirety of the game, moving around only by way of brief cutscenes as your character presses forward to the next scene on the map before continuing the spear-throwing barrage again.
Why are you fighting off hordes of Viking penguins, gentlemen zombies, and giants wearing sunglasses? Obviously for the sheer amusement of a strange and often annoying German deity named Lichtgod. This ominous entity takes the form of a floating head in the sky, and isn’t shy to bark at you with a stern “nein!” after missing foes 3 times in a row with your spear. That’s really the long and short of the narrative (mostly short in this case), though I suppose it stands to reason that a goofy and simplistic story should compliment a goofy and simplistic game.
Enemies mainly come in the form of vulnerable, clumsy undead of various types, and slowly escalate into larger and tougher waves of baddies as you progress. Some, like the giants, will require multiple shots to finish them off unless you strike their big noggin. Others wield large shields, forcing you to aim quickly and precisely to land a successful headshot deathblow - which is definitely one of the more satisfying elements of the game. You’ll have to deal with some projectiles coming at you as well, from laser beams that must be neutralized by your spear, to giant missiles that soar towards you.
Thanks in large part to some immensely simple controls, I was able to breeze through the dozen or so missions pretty easily - even when the game tried its damndest to throw me off with some maddeningly evasive fish, birds, and walruses, who strangely enough proved to be some of the trickier foes on account of their erratic patterns of movement which often takes place from the sky. The game lobs other various curveballs at you as well, including floors set at different disorienting angles, enemies spawning from multiple sides, barrages of projectiles from distant foes, and even a “glitched out” stage that had me fighting frantically from the ceiling. One hit deaths - which are initiated by an enemy merely touching you - can get aggravating and certainly turn things into a grind at times.
Still, normal mode provides a handful of checkpoints and infinite lives during each stage, allowing you to quickly regroup and jump back at least close to the point you perished, which takes away much potential burden and intensity. Though the game’s other difficulty, cutely named “rage-quit mode” does amp up the toughness in a major way. It deprives you of these crucial checkpoint breathers while also unleashing far greater numbers of more powerful enemies.
Every couple of stages, you’ll have run-ins with a variety of unique and colorful bosses, which eventually lead into a showdown against the frustratingly difficult head god himself (or herself if you opt for the female protagonist at the start of the game). Most of the bosses require a little trial and error to figure out just what their patterns and quirks are, which usually succeeds in amping up the difficulty quite a bit. These showdowns, while aggravating at times, managed to be enjoyably epic overall, and broke the tedium of robotically tossing spears at the same gaggle of enemies across the screen.
Completing stages will net you points - the value of which is factored by your accuracy, completion time, headshot, and total deaths. They are then translated to an in-game currency, or “LSD,” as the game fittingly calls it, though we’re quickly told that this stands for “Licht Standard Denomination,” of course - not the obvious drug reference that you no doubt assumed! Racking up large doses of these points proves helpful, as you can purchase a number of powerups that mostly come in the form of additional firepower. These include a piercing “Lichtray” that can cut through a mass of grounded enemies on screen, a satisfying explosive projectile, as well as an ability to slow time; which is useful in those trickier, more chaotic stages later in the game. You’re granted 3 abilities to use at your disposal while playing, which, despite having a cooldown time, enables you to power through mobs of monsters more easily if you’re resourceful enough in timing them.
Exclusive to the Switch edition is a cooperative mode in which you can bring in a second player, oddly taking the form of an armored dog to fight alongside you (or rather above you) for some additional firepower. This mode makes things somewhat easier, assuming your companion is skilled in the art of the spear. Yet the game accounts for this extra advantage in the form of tougher and larger quantities of enemies, so the value of this mode doesn’t lie so much in aiding towards victory as it is merely enjoying the game in a (slightly) new way. Still, credit where credit is due - it’s a fun way to kill 20 minutes or so with a friend until you’re inevitably itching to move onto the next game.
Lichtspeer is a quirky, lighthearted take on the ballistic shooter that’s not afraid to have fun - an attribute the game all but shoves in your face during its trippy disco stages in the middle of the game. Yet it still manages to contain some intense and solid gameplay, boosted by reliable and easily-grasped mechanics. The controls take about 30 seconds to wrap your head around, since they hinge almost entirely on moving the joystick. The only blemish on this front comes in the form of aiming that can prove occasionally sluggish and stiff in the heat of a particularly rough battle. Yet, outside of some jarringly tough bosses, the game does a fine job easing you into your increasingly tricky romps; so the slight dragging nature of the aiming rarely hinders the game as you learn to play around with trajectories and timing.
The simple, pick-up-and-play nature of this shooter compliments the Switch well, and the added multiplayer, while not groundbreaking, acts as a subtle addition to help mix things up a bit. The goofy nature of the enemies and the stylish visuals augment the experience and help leave more of a lasting impression. Lichtspeer: Double Speer Edition still isn’t going to wow too many people, even with its standout aesthetic and character, though at its budget price, I’d say it’s worth giving it a shot.