STAFF REVIEW of Lichtspeer: Double Speer Edition (Xbox One)

Wednesday, June 20, 2018.
by Adam Dileva

Lichtspeer: Double Speer Edition Box art I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of a game described as an “ancient Germanic future”, but here we are with Lichtspeer: Double Speer Edition, a small indie game developed by two people that has a basic premise, but challenging gameplay. If I had to simply describe its gameplay in one simple sentence, it would be something along the lines of "A lightspear throwing experience where you face near endless hordes of enemies".

You are given power by the gods, well, a god who is kind of bored actually and they simply want to see what happens when you’re given the power of the Lichtspeer, a spear that automatically regenerates, giving you an endless supply of this weapon. And you’ll need this endless supply too, as you’re going to have a violent road ahead of you (in a light hearted way though), trying to impale everything that rushes towards you such as zombies, ice giants, sorcerers, walruses and more.

It’s up to you to please the gods for their amusement, but one mistake and you’ll perish, having to restart at the beginning of the stage. I wish there was more to report regarding the narrative, but that’s literally it. While there’s a framework built as to why you’re doing what you’re doing, you’re playing Lichtspeer for its gameplay, not its' story.

Each stage is broken into a handful of waves, each becoming progressively more difficult and adding some type of new enemy or obstacle to keep you on your toes and test your aiming abilities. Most stages will have you in the bottom left corner, standing in place, chucking your endless spears at the oncoming enemies. Think Angry Birds, as you need to hold your power button and aim, factoring in angle and drop. In the beginning this will be easy, but eventually different types of enemies need to be prioritized, as some will walk slowly, some others run, and some even slide down a chute into your face. Aim, shoot, kill and repeat, that’s your objective and what you’ll be doing the whole time, with many deaths peppered in between.

If your accuracy and aim is on point you’ll be able to pull off headshots, and these are basically one hit kills, which again, in the beginning isn’t difficult, but the action will become much more frantic later on, resulting in difficulty of have the time to pull off multiple headshots in a row. Headshots raise your combo meter, allowing for some crazy high scores, but things become so crazy later on that you’ll be more occupied with trying to stay alive rather than aim perfectly. One touch from an enemy and you’re back at the beginning of the stage to try all over again, unless you’re on a boss, then luckily it starts you there again.

In the beginning it’s a little jarring to aim exactly where you want, as you need to hold down a button to power your shot, but you also will need to aim up and down for the exact arc you desire. Eventually you do become more proficient, not having to think as much for angle and distance, but that’s also when you start getting more and more difficult enemies, such as flying animals, jumping fish and more, that require very skilled shots. Other enemies, like the giants, take two hits if you don’t land a headshot, causing more commotion. When there’s multiple types of enemies on screen simultaneously, that’s where quick thinking and strategy comes into play. By the end, it’s almost borderline unfair and calls for near perfection.

To help with this, you earn LSD for completing stages. Calm down, this is simply the currency you earn for your performance in the levels, not the hallucinogenic drug. The higher the score the more you earn, and this LSD can be spent on purchasing new skills or upgrading your favorites. There’s a surprising amount of abilities to be unlocked, though only a handful are truly useful and worthwhile. This encourages replaying levels numerous times to earn currency, which can make subsequent runs that much easier. I do wish there were more useful abilities, maybe even passive bonuses, instead of having a choice of a dozen skills.

The available abilities will refresh over time and should be used when in a tight pinch. These types of sections are usually the challenging, but refreshing, boss fights. Each stage is broken into 5 level sections, and at the end of each second stage is a boss fight that will require some quick thinking and precision. Eventually bosses become quite challenging, and since you’re stationary and unable to move, throwing your spear into a small pink block will allow you to teleport to other footholds on the playfield. Combine this with shooting down projectiles and other enemies and you’ll find that you can become overwhelmed quite quickly.

If you find yourself not doing well, you’ll be happy to know that there’s a 2-player local co-op mode available, for those times you really need some help. The second player gets to play as the main character’s pet (I believe it’s his pet anyway), throwing their own spears wherever they like for double the firepower. Having online support would have helped with longevity, as I don’t really have friends over much, and this wouldn’t be my first choice of a party game if I did.

What I did enjoy was the soundtrack and audio. It has a heavy techno vibe with good beats which suited the visuals quite well, changing based on the levels you’re playing. Headshots sound satisfying, making you want to achieve more of them. And for those wanting more, there’s even a Rage Quit mode, seeing how far you can go in a single life. Not for me by any means, but a great inclusion for those that enjoy difficulty.

Within minutes I was reminded of playing those old pocket tank-like games from my youth, Scorched Earth and Scorched Tanks, as the premise is somewhat similar, keeping you rooted in place and you angle your shots at enemies. While the controls may be clumsy, seemingly better suited for a mouse or touch controls, you do eventually become used to it but you will still suffer cheap and unfair deaths, quite often in the later stages.

The biggest offender in what affects this games overall experience is its repetitiveness. Sure new enemies are introduced often, but the one hit death mechanic can become quite frustrating. Having a dozen near useless abilities doesn’t help either when you learn which few overpowered ones to save up for instead. Unless you are longing for those Scorched Tank days from way back when, you may want to 'spear' clear until a decent sale.

Overall: 5.6 / 10
Gameplay: 4.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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