From super fast hedgehogs to leaping moustachioed ex-plumbers, games have always been intrinsically interconnected with the silly and the bizarre. Cue Lichtspeer: Double Speer Edition, a *really* bizarre game that aims to take the silly descriptor to a whole new level. Not only does it feature blue hipster ice-giants, penguin vikings and flying walruses as enemies, it also sports a co-op mode where player two is a small, flying sausage dog companion. Who fires deadly light-spears. Which impale fish that threaten to gnaw your noggin from right off your shoulders. And you know what? That's just the tip of the silliness iceberg…
It’s a good thing, then, that Polish developer Lichthund has managed to make all that craziness work within the context of an aim-and-throw, wave-based arcade survival title while avoiding the pitfalls of obnoxiousness that many games of a similar ilk fall into. Not only does it work, but it works well, especially in the new co-op mode that has been added in this new Nintendo Switch iteration (the game originally came out last year for PC and other consoles sans the newly fangled co-op mode).
Story is sparse and simply serves as an amusing backdrop to this gameplay-driven experience. An angry Germanic Norse god is bored and in need of some light entertainment, so he gifts the unnamed player character with a lethal light-spear to keep the big man upstairs occupied in a bid to wile away the hours of his eternal tedium. Thus, your task is to take down waves of weird critters armed solely with a light-spear and the unremitting will to survive. Really, that’s pretty much it in terms of narrative, however, it’s actually kind of refreshing to see a game unabashedly embrace its minimalist plot, forgoing an overly convoluted story in a bid to let the slick arcade gameplay do the heavy lifting.
Onto the snappy gameplay, then, and it’s undoubtedly where Lichtspeer shines the brightest. Like a strange, inventive cocktail of Angry Birds, Space Invaders and Hotline Miami, the moment-to-moment core gameplay leans heavily into the old adage; easy to pick up, but tough to master. You control the angle of the spear’s throw. When you’re happy with the shot, you let the ol’ sucker fly in the hope of laying waste to the army of nasties bearing down on you who all want to find out what colour your insides are (spoiler: they’re red).
Missing three shots in a row invokes the wrath of the big cheese, which stuns you briefly, while scoring a headshot rewards you with a one-hit-kill that also helps rack up your score with a bonus multiplier, too. Landing headshots is definitely one of the most satisfying aspects of the game, especially when the monsters start coming thick and fast, which kicks off straight after the opening tutorial.
Each monster has their own attack pattern; basic enemy grunts, like the storm dwarfs, just peg it as fast as they can towards you, while flying walruses and gargoyles zip through the air aiming to squish you from up above. Further still, evil warlock style enemies hang back hurling lightning projectiles that stun you for a short window enabling the other monstrosities enough time to get in and sloppily dismantle you from limb to limb. And that’s all without mentioning those damn red fish — seriously, watch out for those pesky buggers!
Though it’s fun nailing sunglass-toting giants in the head with deadly spears, it soon becomes clear that this is not a walk in the spear-wielding park. Challenge is thrown at you early on, and it rarely lets up over the course of its thirteen level campaign. Each level is split up into five waves, and every few levels sees the game lobbing a nasty boss in your way to really put paid to your progress.
When it’s good, Lichtspeer really becomes a frenzied whack-a-mole of epic proportions, defeating dozens of critters each stage in a satisfying symphony of blood, guts, and rock and roll. However, when it veers into not-so-good territory, the game can occasionally feel unnecessarily cruel, particularly in the later levels, which results in some frustrating experiences that left me rolling my eyes as my patience took a spear to the heart. Thankfully, this was an occurrence that only happened few and far between as, for the most part, the challenge is pitched very well. It’s also super rewarding when you finally do make it past those dastardly difficulty spikes. Suck it, fishcakes.
Further adding some meat to the game’s bones are the inclusion of a few special moves and upgrades peppered in to keep the fun from wearing thin. These can be unlocked via a shop that becomes available after the first opening level. Shields, short-range defensive magic spells as well as the ability to split your spear into a triple threat, to name but a few, are all welcome additions and potential purchases that help to add a touch more depth to the ’80s arcade inspired action that the game so ardently aims to emulate. The currency is even LSD. Licht Standard Denomination, obviously. Not the psychedelic drug from the ’80s, of course.
Accompanying the slick gameplay is some seriously slick presentation, too. The art-style is bold and eye-catching, with some nice enemy designs and expansive dynamic background vistas that really pop with character and colour. It’s also got a really kick ass electronica soundtrack, too, which veers from ice cool beats to ambient dub, depending on what level you’re battling on. Visually and aurally, it does a good job of standing out from the indie crowd.
Though Lichtspeer may not be the deepest experience around, it can prove to be a pretty stiff challenge. A couple of hardcore modes and its addition of some surprisingly fun co-op is icing on a pretty delicious spear-shaped cake. Ultimately, the game’s confluence of moreish gameplay and eye-catchingly ice-cool presentation is a devilishly fun time that has the potential to spear ol’ boredom right between the eyes. That’s if those damned fish don’t get you first. You’ve been warned…
Lichtspeer (Reviewed on Nintendo Switch)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
Though Lichtspeer may not be the deepest experience around, its confluence of moreish gameplay and eye-catchingly ice-cool presentation is a devilishly fun time that has the potential to spear ol’ boredom right between the eyes.