Lichtspeer

Lichtspeer.jpg

Lichtspeer
Switch, Playstation 4, Vita, and PC
Developed by Lichthund
Released in 2016

Reviewing games reliant on their comedy is always a tough job because humor is ever-so subjective. A fact I am reminded of whenever my teenage sister wants to show me some random stuff on Youtube she finds funny. What makes another person laugh uncontrollably will make another cringe, or even worse, feel insulted. Lichtspeer from the Polish developer Lichthund is an example of this, as some people may find it funny even though it left me cringing each time the game attempted a joke.

Strudels und Schnitzels, ja?

The setting of the game has you take control of a German dude that is tasked by a mad God to go on a monster-killing rampage for his amusement. His tool for doing so is the Lichtspeer, a pink stick he is meant to hurl at enemies like a javelin to strike them down. After a brief introduction, this plot isn’t brought up much again and progression through the campaign is devoid of storytelling too. Even so, what little dialogue there is, is drawn out and slow, with jokes that are too simplistic.

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You see, Lichtspeer has one joke to it, which is that it acts German. Dialogue randomly has German words stuck into it, so instead of “the” everything has to be “das” etcetera. Gratuitous use of language can certainly be funny, but generally speaking I feel it’s more a side-gag, something you do to support more developed jokes. Lichtspeer does have a fascination with surrealism and space, so levels are often bizarre and the enemies are all odd, but this too is kind of weak. Like the most elaborate joke it pulls off is naming the currency used to buy upgrades LSD and then insisting it totally means something other than what it obviously refers to.

Not exactly comedic gold…

Story score: 2/10

Archery, minus the bow

Lichtspeer reminded me of an old flash game we used to play in school, where two stick figures stand a distance away from each other and take turns firing an arrow at the other player. Your warrior in this game does something sort-of similar, he stands at one edge of the screen and a variety of monsters march towards him from the right. By throwing your spear you must take them down before they reach you, for anything and everything causes an instant death.

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While holding the mouse button to prepare your throw the game will show an outline that displays where your spear will go, but beyond that outline you’ll have to eyeball it to line up your shots. To be fair, the game does a lot to bring variety to this simple concept, as levels will mix up the gameplay by having you play on sloped surfaces, putting you in the middle of the field as enemies approach from two sides, or have enemies that man harpoon guns. Enemy variety also spices up the massacre, as some will simply march towards you at varying speeds, while others stand back to cast magic or approach rapidly using odd patterns. The game taunts that “you’ll die a lot” and while this isn’t apparent in the first few stages, after a while it becomes clear that the game meant it. Especially the fish are brutal, as they leap from the water and only give you the smallest of windows to land a spear before they are upon you.

Still, that leaves Lichtspeer with just one mechanic. While you can purchase and upgrade abilities, they just supplement the throwing of spears, and it’s more or less unforgivable that this one mechanic has glaring issues to it. Especially obvious when enemies come from two sides, is the fact that lining up your shots is jittery and imprecise. It often felt like my mouse was disconnecting or the batteries were low, as my character randomly began to move slower than I was moving the mouse. Likewise, triggering the special moves mapped to A S and D often had a delay, especially the power that splits your spear into 3, which often wouldn’t trigger until it no longer had any use.

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Especially the boss fights are made a hassle because of this, and the fact that they have way too much health didn’t help either. Since you still die in one hit during these, having the controls mess up for you even once means redoing an entire, overlong boss-fight from the very start. And bear in mind: this is the only thing you do in the game. You stand around throwing spears and throwing the spears doesn’t reliably work. The stages also take way too long, having you impale literally hundreds of enemies per level before allowing you to move on to the next one, where you’ll proceed to do pretty much the same thing. Sometimes it introduces a new enemy type and between worlds the setting changes, but most levels are content with recycling the same few ideas over and over again.

It’s tediously prolonged, the one gameplay mechanic it has is underdeveloped, and it is all-around just kind of a hassle to play.

Gameplay score: 2/10

Hide-and-seek?

I already mentioned how the game has a fascination with surreal imagery, so during the levels you can expect to see a lot of strange stuff. Mysterious elevator leading to new places, strange creatures in the background, and more than one venture into deep space. The game is also colorful and prefers heavily themed zones, like the ice zone and desert zone the game starts out with. Much of the music is very calm and electronic, which isn’t a favorite of mine, but I can see how it fits the game well.

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What the game is terrible at, however, is separating the enemies from the background. Enemies really do blend in, such as the basic flying foe that seems almost designed to color-swap to match the stage it’s in. During ice-levels it’s dark blue, then takes on a more browner color when moving to the desert, always making it really hard to actually see the darn thing show up until it’s too late. Likewise, enemies like the fishes always look like they are just animations to make the stages look lively, until they begin to eat your face.

What I find most perplexing about the game is how unimpressive it looks and feels. You have a simple concept and lots of enemies to kill, but doing so just feels really flat. There is a tiny bit of blood and then the enemy drops to the floor, it doesn’t invoke any catharsis and that, in turn, adds to the monotony of playing through the game. Maybe it’s because the colorful surrealism reminds me of Hotline Miami, but I was seriously expecting the action to have at least some impact.

Presentation score: 3/10

Once is enough, thank you.

The game keeps a scoring system where you are graded based on accuracy, the headshots you make, and other such statistics. Each stage also has specific objectives it asks you to complete and you can buy and upgrade your special moves with the LSD this rewards. While the game encourages you to replay levels to improve your score, it’s obviously not that interesting to go back to previous stages given the state the gameplay is in.

Extras score: 3/10

Verdict

Even though I complained about the lack of variety in the gameplay, I was actually interested in Lichtspeer due to its simple concept. I figured it’d be a fun idea to base a short game around, but in actuality the game drags its levels out endlessly and can’t even get its one idea right. Add in some cringeworthy humor and it’s a recipe for disaster.

26/100

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