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Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
Genre: Action
Developer: Lichthund
Release Date: Sept. 7, 2017

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Switch Review - 'Lichtspeer: Double Speer Edition'

by Andreas Salmen on Oct. 18, 2017 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Lichtspeer is an action arcade lightspear-tossing simulator where you, armed only with a mighty lightspear, must kill and be killed for the amusement of the evil Lichtgods.

Buy Lichtspeer: Double Speer Edition

Lichtspeer: Double Speer Edition is an over-the-top arcade shooter with striking visuals and interesting sound design. That's about as descriptive as I can get. After beating the four-hour long campaign, I still don't know how to characterize the game. Upon startup, we are greeted with a warning message that adequately sums up the experience: There is a high chance that nothing you are about to see will make any sense.

Boy, are they right!

Lichtspeer draws on Germanic mythology, and players can choose a male or female alter ego and assign a name such as Hans, Helga, Hilde, or a variety of other Germanic names before they begin an adventure of almost certain death.

As the tale goes, we are the chosen one and must face countless creatures to entertain our god. Before sending us into battle, the towering god provides us with a nifty pink spear of light to stab our opponents. After all, fistfights are quite boring, and long pointy things significantly increase bloodshed. While he is not a merciful god, he seems to know his gore. That's about the extent of the story. Until the end of the game, there's no further mention of the story or the fact that our god left us for dead with mythical creatures and a stick of bundled light.

The gameplay in Lichtspeer is as diverse as the story, as it only consists of one mechanic: throwing a spear. While that sounds underwhelming, it is well executed and designed. The gameplay positions us at a fixed point on either side of the screen, and we're unable to move while waves of enemies run in our general direction. If an enemy reaches us before we can bury a spear in his body, we're a goner and have to repeat the area. Throwing a spear is similar to the system used to flick birds at pigs in modern smartphone games, except it's more lethal and involves blood loss and decapitation. Holding down the shoulder button or the left face button shows an estimated arc to help us aim. The left analog stick alternates our throwing angles up and down, and the rest is self-explanatory.

Enemies range from slow-moving spear fodder to incredibly fast zombies and massive hipster giants. With each hit, we rack up points based on the distance to our enemies. Letting enemies come closer generates more points, while keeping them at a distance makes life easier but doesn't garner high scores. The ultimate aim is to hit enemies in the head, as headshots bring more points and add a combo multiplier for consecutive headshots. People addicted to score-based games will get obsessed with Lichtspeer's well-implemented score system and increasing difficulty.

You will die a lot in Lichtspeer, more than in any game you've recently played. The shooting system requires a decent amount of familiarity and skill to hit enemies consistently, and even more so to get consecutive headshots, as the time frame between hits is very short. Couple that with the variety of enemies, and the game will have you beat in no time. Alternating slow and fast enemies of varying sizes force you to make split-second decisions about which enemy to prioritize at any given point. As soon as Lichtspeer introduces flying and armed enemies, different platforms, head-biting fish, ranged attacks, and turrets, and it'll be game over before you know it.

Different enemies require you to be more or less precise with your aim. Giants take two hits to go down unless you manage to pull off a headshot, armored enemies are hard to hit unless they peek their heads from behind their shields, and the fish periodically jump out of the water to they bite off your head.

It's the variety in enemies, stages, and tactics that deepens the gameplay. The highlights are the boss battles, creating well thought-out battles, forcing you to apply your lichtspeer skills and figuring out ways to come out ahead. On top of that, you earn in-game currency to upgrade your abilities. These are separated into three areas with three equippable skills each to complement your shortcomings on the battlefield. Some improve your aim by splitting your speer into three different ones or launching a wave of lichtarrows, while others offer you shielding abilities.

The game suffers from difficulty and repetitive gameplay. Taken on their own, the limited mechanics are limited but offer as much variety as expected within the concept. The Nintendo Switch version offers some additions, two of which are extra difficulty settings in case you aren't frustrated enough after beating the game once. The first is a Game+ mode, while the other one is adequately named "Rage Quit Mode." The arguably biggest addition is the possibility of couch co-op with a friend, adding a lichthund companion with its own special attack and spear-throwing skills into the mix. Playing through the game with a friend will make it easier to beat, so if you get frustrated, just get a friend and share the Joy-Cons for some intense yelling contests.

Lichtspeer excels at visuals and sound design. The game is incredibly pretty, especially considering it was developed by a team of two. Funny enemy types and crude humor complement the over-the-top game design, and the mix of phony trance and techno music in the background elevates the experience. You'll hear the tracks quite often, but since you die a lot, you'll eventually reach a point where even the best sound and graphics can't ease the frustration.

All in all, Lichtspeer is a fun indie title with limited story and gameplay elements that create an overall good but somewhat lacking experience. What's here is incredibly well made, but if you're not a fan of difficult arcade-style, high-score shooters, Lichtspeer might not be right for you.

Score: 7.4/10

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