Simple is best, in many cases. You don’t always need a complex and multi-layered explanation and technique in order to have joy brought into your life. I don’t care where my beef was raised or what kind of educational background my tomatoes received, I just want to eat a burger. You can have fantastic presentation and some really gorgeous framing while still capturing what it means to be “simple, yet elegant.” I use this buffer as a preamble to the release of the indie spear-chucking game, Lichtspeer: Double Speer Edition.
Right off the bat, I give HUGE praise and heaps of appreciation to the developers for making the Switch version, with some extra fun baked in, the exact same price as the Steam release. As I saw from their PAX West news release, there is the co-op edition coming to Steam, but, in the meantime, Lichtspeer: Double Speer Edition is the only game in town for playing with the exclusive second player, a Wunderbar space dog, and that sentence alone made it even better. Too many developers are (rightfully so) placing the price of their Switch releases at a slightly or significantly higher price. Lichtspeer, being just shy of a year old, sees their new audience and grants them the same entry price as everyone else, and I just wanted to put that right up top. Good job, Lichthund team.
The plot of Lichtspeer is pretty ridiculous but awesome in its own framework. A giant head, which I suppose is a Germanic God of the past from the future, wants you to be his champion and kill a ton of stuff in his name. However, he feels your human body is woefully underpowered for the level of mayhem that he requires to be satisfied. So he bestows upon you the Lichtspeer, a throwing weapon of unimaginable power! Or somewhat imaginable. It’s a spear. If you stab something with it, it dies. What follows next is an insane trail of death as you, the champion, blaze across several levels full of bizarre and sometimes terrifying enemies. Were you scared of penguins before? What about when they’re manning the cannons? It’s all about perspective.
Gameplay-wise, Lichtspeer captures the “simplicity” element in a nutshell: throw the spear. That’s really all there is to it. You can’t move from the spawn point where you begin, and enemies will come at you at varying speeds with the intention of killing you. Some monsters fly, some come by ship, and even others have their own projectiles you need to shoot out of the air or just pray they don’t fire. You see, as a mostly mortal and fleshy champion, it only takes one hit for you to die. One. If that wasn’t enough, if you miss three times, the God Head takes away your Speer as punishment and you wait a short time till he gives it back at which point you are embarrassingly defenseless. The game can seem unfair at times. Because it is. But Lichtspeer makes no apologies about its difficulty level, and even includes a special “rage quit +” mode that is sure to shatter your confidences and television screen.
Thankfully, it isn’t unrelenting. Enemies come in waves with breaks in between, and dying will only bring you back to the start of the current wave, not the whole level. Your point modifier also gets reset (increase your payoff with tons of headshots) but your score itself stays where it was at the start of the wave. In an effort to become a modern arcade game, Lichthund was sure to include a bit of justice in the game, which is great, because once you have your first boss encounter, or end up with rocket-shooting walruses ruining your day, you’ll be grateful for this small boon of humanity, however fleeting. Also, if you have to quit suddenly (as Switch users are prone to do, mobile gaming and all), you can continue at the wave where you were, not at the very beginning. It’s incredibly useful and dead kind.
But the champion isn’t left completely defenseless to the onslaught of increasingly absurd enemies. Your points will get translated to Lichtspeer Standard Denominations (LSD) at the end of the level, and you can buy power up skills of different sorts. It’s very open how you can choose to customize your hero, so you can decide if you’ll become the long range punisher (get a Lichthammer!) a “that was too close” survivor (Lichtray!) or someone who realizes that defense might be important in some way (Das Shield!). There’s a slew of different ways to modify your Speer and self, and even power up the skills you enjoy, so try out different ideas and don’t be afraid to start a second game to see how life might be with a different approach to conquest.
Oh, now seems like as a good of any time to mention the dialogue. This game is trying to be funny, and I think it succeeds, as someone who likes silly ideas and fun speech patterns. Everything is Germanic, very heavily so, and someone, somewhere, might be offended by that. So, if you think Germanface is a think or whatever, please know this is all in good fun, there are zero offensive enemies or landscapes, and it’s all just straight up good fun that I’m sure Nintendo would have shut down if they felt it was too much. So, please, relax.
The game is very proud it’s soundtrack, and can clearly hear why. Every level has a driving, heavy tune that is reminding you of the rock and roll lifestyle of being an avatar of destruction, and the constant presence of things that just want to kill you isn’t hardcore enough. The music is a lot of “retro future,” with synth, electronics and tons of neon that you can actually hear on the damn soundtrack. It is LOUD, for those with sensitive hearing, but it’s exactly what it needs to be, which is helping to remind you of where you are and what you’re doing, which is “somewhere in Germany in a future past” and “ruining some giant’s day.”
Additionally, the way Lichtspeer is drawn and designed is something else entirely, and I mean that in the best way. It’s very light and irreverent without going too far into the “goofy” situation. As the game itself proclaims, you’ll find “Viking penguins,” but they’re well crafted penguins with horned helmets and a thirst for blood. When you get hit, your chest or other body part explodes into a cascade of blood that is all triangles. The flying hounds of hell look like Mr. Burns’ famous dogs with wings stapled on, so still intimidating but not unsettling. The overall result is a further echo of the game’s core message: furious and fun, heavy action but still knowledgeable that it’s a game, go have fun.
Lastly, the two player mode that we mentioned up top is a boon to new players and high score seekers alike. With a second person in the muzzle of the mutt, later levels are MUCH easier to handle with good communication and precision. The dog fires at different trajectories and it seemed a little quicker than the champion’s Speer, but also with a longer refractory time. The result was being able to enjoy some giggly panic with my partner as we both frantically tried to target the same wizard and the fireball he had already shot, both of us missing and then collapsing into frustrated joy. It’s a genuinely fun experience with two people as long as you accept the difficulty and, surprise, don’t take things too seriously.
I thought I was going to hate Lichtspeer: Double Speer Edition. The first couple of waves felt way too easy and the concept felt like a Flash game brought to consoles. But the aesthetic and the sound kept me around, and the skills, combined with the increasingly fascinating enemies and genuine challenge, kept me locked in. I think this is an excellent addition to the growing Switch library, and I really do appreciate how much Lichthund has shown care and support for both their game and their fans. If you’re ready to crack your backs and aim for the Holy Grail, then pick up your über controller and get ready to slay for honor and might!
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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