Game Music, Indie Music, Reviews

Luftrausers OST (Review)

May 15, 2014 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Luftrausers OST (Review)on Twitter

A bullet hell arcade shooter set in a fictional post-WWII era world. There’s not one part of Luftrausers, as a game and a concept, that doesn’t make me smile. The game has an old-school Game Boy aesthetic, it can be played in brief sessions, and is both enjoyably fast paced and difficult. In this game, you play as a lone pilot fighting and destroying as many enemy combatants as possible. As you play, you unlock more parts that you can use to customize your vehicle. Each part has its special attributes that drastically change how you play. It’s the very type of game that we’ve come to expect from a developer like Vlambeer. Anyone familiar with their previous games, like Ridiculous Fishing and Super Crate Box, knows that they have a knack for making some excellent arcade style games. Luftrausers is no exception.

The soundtrack for Luftrausers was composed by electro-house artist KOZILEK, aka Jukio Kallio. Luftrausers is actually a sequel to the original Luftrauser game, a smaller scale version of the game that Rami Ismail ended up releasing for free. Luftrausers is a sequel in much the same way that Team Meat’s Super Meat Boy is a sequel to the original Meat Boy. The same basic concepts, but with the production value and complexity cranked up to eleven. KOZILEK wrote the soundtrack for the original Luftrauser, so he returns to bring his composing talents to this newer game.

The soundtrack within the game is interesting in that it changes depending on what parts you select to use for your fighter plane. There are three different parts that make up your vehicle. You can choose the weapon type, the body type, and the engine type. Each category has five different options that you can unlock. Each part has a specific instrument track associated with it so you will get a different audio experience for each customized vehicle that you make. This potentially means that there are 125 different combinations of music that you can experience during gameplay.

On the Luftrausers OST, the individual music segments are combined into five battle music tracks on the album. The remaining tracks are regular pieces that play in other segments of the game, such as the menu screens. According to the Bandcamp site, if you download the soundtrack, you can access the individual music layers from the downloaded files. If you have any type of music mixing software, you can actually make various remix combinations of the music elements on your own.

The music of Luftrausers maintains a primarily electronic synth sound throughout, similar to the original Luftrauser soundtrack. It matches well with the retro aesthetics of the game, with much of the environment and objects constructed of simple pixel shapes. Many of the different instruments used on the tracks imitate the sounds of warplanes and the various weapons available in the game. The bass synth sounds in particular take on a sound of engines revving up and a handful of the higher pitch instruments mimic the sound of laser guns firing. There are a handful of sound effects used as percussion in the music. For example, the sound of marching is used to start all five of the battle pieces, helping evoke the post-WWII military theme of the game. There’s also some light use of orchestra instrument samples, primarily strings. This mostly comes in on a theme that is present in all of the battle music pieces. This theme is in all variations that can occur in the game itself, which gives a sense of consistency throughout your experience of the game’s music.

The first battle track, “Luftrauser,” is the music combination that you get when using the original or default vehicle parts. Meanwhile, “Heavyrauser” is the resulting combination of selecting the second set of items in each attribute tab. In this case it’s the laser weapon, armor body, and the superboost engine. The remaining battle tracks “Laserauser,” “Assaultrauser,” and “Trickrauser,” follow a similar set up. Each track is the next set of parts on the customization menu. Each battle track on the album naturally has similarities to the other combinations, such as tempo, the key the music is written in, and the overall pacing. This makes the music all blend together well, but each instrument has a unique enough part that every combination has its own identity.

The remaining four tracks on the album feature the music that you hear on the menu screens. “Going to War,” is the piece that plays while you are customizing your plane and looking at your gameplay stats. The track “Rest in Peace” is played while the game is paused. Both of these track keep the tone of the military setting, while being a little calmer than their battle section counterparts. The album’s sixth track “Lazy Hangar,” plays during the credits and the final track, “Devil From the Deep,” is a special track for the final aircraft, which you can only unlock by completing all of the game’s challenges. I won’t spoil what this final aircraft is, but I will say that the grand scale bombast of this piece works perfectly for the vehicle and the craziness that ensues while flying it.

The Luftrausers OST is a great album of electronic music for a very engaging game. The chiptune synth instruments work well with the old-school game visuals and the more orchestral elements of the score highlight the military bombast of the game’s setting. While the nature of the music’s structure in the game means that the soundtrack can only provide specific variations of the music, it’s interesting to see that the composer encourages listeners to mess around with the material and create remixes of their own. This is a good soundtrack for anyone who’s a fan of chiptunes or for fans of the game itself. The Luftrausers OST can be found and purchased on Bandcamp.

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