After booming, zooming and barrel-rolling through a preview build of Jet Lancer, I'm confident that developers Vladimir Fedyushkin and Nicolai Danielsen (no studio name) are soon to deliver exactly what I wanted from Luftrausers. Obviously inspired by Vlambeer's twitchy score-attack dogfighter, Jet Lancer wraps its formula in a structured story-heavy campaign set in a very anime post-apocalyptic world. It also has some very large robot bosses to fight and an intensely satisfying dodge roll button. It's out this summer. Below, a new trailer and some thoughts.
If you've not played Luftrausers, both it and Jet Lancer are simple enough. It's a 2D arcade shooter, usually asking you to wipe out all the baddies. You control a little jet fighter, rotating around a central axis. One button fires your engines and makes you zoom around (and generally defy gravity), the other fires your guns. Jet Lancer adds a couple more wrinkles, including a recharging stock of homing missiles, a chargeable super-weapon, afterburners and a barrel roll that makes you temporarily invulnerable while powering up your guns for a moment if you time an evasion just right, which feels great.
Players control Ash, a mercenary fighter pilot hunting down sky-pirates harassing local shipping in the far future. Those pesky pirates are also digging up ancient robotic super-weapons from the sea bed - it's all very Ace Combat by way of Armored Core, plus a little extra anime. After an early boss fight you recruit Lem, a talking cat and engineer who lets you swap weapons and fighter components between missions. Some missions favour certain loadouts, while some options just raise the difficulty. While your fighter's look doesn't change, there's a lot of different play-styles.
Probably the biggest difference from Luftrausers is the structure of the game. You pick your missions from a 3D world map, as you steer your carrier around, reading little bits of world-building lore. Levels are short and aggressive. Unlike Luftrausers where you can regenerate health by holding off the fire button for a moment, you can only take three hits here. Early missions are forgiving, but once the more aggressive enemy types start to show up, it becomes all about barrel-rolling through danger, and trying to keep track of twenty swirling missiles at once. Manic, but fun, and never impossible.
While they're not ready to pin down a date yet, Jet Lancer is on track for a summer launch. You can find it here on Steam. It'll be published by Armor Games Studios.