Jets ‘n’ Guns, by Rake in Grass, is a side-scrolling space shooter that harks back to the good old days of misspent youth in the local video game arcade, pumping the weeks’ pocket money into the machines. It has you manoeuvring around the screen shooting enemies and trying to take as little damage as possible. Jets ‘n’ Guns makes you feel that competitive streak again, where you feel compelled to beat the high score. Even more so when you find out your friends’ scores.
The first thing you will notice about Jets ‘n’ Guns is the small download size – just over 100mb. Then you fire it up and you get a great big hit of arcade nostalgia right off the bat. It has a simple interface and full controller support, so you can break out your Xbox 360 controller for this one.
The story behind the game is straightforward: you are a merc for hire and you need to bring down a massive army of evil pirates. The story progresses as you finish each level. The player collects cargo, medals, mission reports, extra cash and more which you can trade in for money to improve your weapons, buy new weapons, missiles, bombs and more. All these items make your journey through each level even more spectacular in terms of how many explosions are going on as you take out the enemies. According to Rake in Grass, there are twelve customisable ships available to you. I played with the RV Hot Dog ship and the default ship. Jets ‘n’ Guns Gold features a varying range of enemies – from ground troops to big bosses. The ground troops are usually easily disposed of, either by shooting them or dropping an enemy craft on top of them if you time your shots. Bombs can help deal with the troops to as well as some of the more armoured enemies like missile launchers.
The environments in each level have a degree of destructibility about them, so you can kind of get hooked on taking down that acid tank, or blowing up that building with a radar dish on top. The explosions are always over the top and great fun to watch.
As you progress through each level, you have ship armour which degrades upon each hit from an enemy. You will have the chance to pick up hull regeneration bonuses throughout levels to help you get through but don’t expect there to be plenty of these drops. There are also checkpoints in levels so that, should you die, you can continue from the last checkpoint you reached. A cracking arcade soundtrack from Swedish band Machinae Supremacy lends a frantic pace to the game and you find yourself pushing harder and faster on each level, taking greater risks in trading hull armour damage to go for the sustained kill on the boss or heavier enemies. There are apparently over forty levels in this game and an array of seventy over-the-top weapons with which to wreak havoc upon the evil pirate gang and their overlord.
Being a small and cheap game, it is fun to play but does have some issues. Most notable is the fact that if you reach a level check point and then decide to give it a rest, it doesn’t matter if you save the game and come back, you will have to start that level from the beginning. It kind of defeats the whole checkpoint feature. Also, Jets ‘n’ Guns is very challenging, even on the lowest setting and it is a punishing game in that respect, because if you decide to leave it on normal difficulty, you can expect to spend ages mastering the game to try and make it past level one. The lowest difficulty setting means you stand a better chance of succeeding but as the levels progress it becomes harder once more and you will find yourself rage quitting – not a good sign for longevity in a game. The final issue is that, yes it does have controller support, but the controller just acts as if you were moving a mouse during the title screens, that kind of defeats the whole point of controller support. I’d like to see that fixed in a future patch as right now I just end up reaching for my mouse to get around the menus quicker, especially when buying and upgrading items for my ship.
If you’re looking for some great, side-scrolling arcade-style action, then look no further and be prepared for a challenge. Jets ‘n’ Guns gives you plenty of levels, enemies and explosions and all at a decent price. Consider adding it to your library as one of those games you can play when you can’t decide which epic quest to begin next from your massive game library. Just be aware that if this type of game doesn’t generally appeal to you, you may find it difficult and not as much fun as I did.
Jets ‘n’ Guns Gold is available on Steam for Windows, Mac OS and Linux. And if you are really lucky, it might be on sale when you go to buy it.