Monday, April 23, 2007

Jets’N’Guns Gold Review

Jets’N’Guns Gold, developed and published by Rake In Grass.
The Good: Upgradeable weapons, chaotic action, good graphics for a 2-D game
The Not So Good: Very hard because of numerous enemies
What say you? A scrolling space shooter with some interesting weapon upgrades but high difficulty: 5/8

In space, no one can hear you scream. But you sure can shoot a lot of stuff. Space is one of the more popular settings for arcade ship-based shooters, as evidenced by the large number of titles available on the PC. Jets’N’Guns Gold is the gold version of Jets’N’Guns that adds more levels, enemies, weapons to the side-scrolling arcade shooter. How will Jets’N’Guns Gold stack up against the stiff competition?

Jets’N’Guns Gold features some nice graphics for a 2-D game. Although the game is displayed at a relatively low resolution (800 by 600 pixels), the special effects in the game are very well done. The combination of blown up ships, ship parts flying around the map, bloody carcasses flying through space, and the high number of explosions makes Jets’N’Guns Gold a visual feast for a game of this type. There are nice little touches present everywhere in the game, from the disturbingly detailed skeletal remains of fallen adversaries to spent cartridges flying out of your craft. It all comes together quite nicely and the result is one of the best looking 2-D shooters. The same can’t be said for the audio: the background music is annoying enough to make you want to shut it off, consisting of a generic techno selection as you dispose of the enemy. The sound effects are fairly standard, though. Overall, the quality of the graphics elevates this title above the rest in terms of presentation.

Jets’N’Guns Gold features a lengthy single player campaign where you shoot stuff. Each individual level is lengthy; this makes the full game take quite a while to complete. There is a storyline shown between missions, but who really pays attention to that? The mechanics are standard: mouse or keyboard controls with two dimensional movement (I prefer the precision of the mouse). The action is pretty much the same as any other game of the genre: shoot things without running into or getting shot by enemies. There are enemies in the air and along the ground, but this is about the only innovation Jets’N’Guns Gold makes in terms of gameplay. Unfortunately for most, Jets’N’Guns Gold is very, very, very hard, even on the easiest difficulty setting. Instead of just letting you plow through waves of enemies, Jets’N’Guns Gold ramps up the difficulty by having lots of large enemies on the screen at one time. You receive more damage by running into the enemy than getting shot by them, and this can happen frequently. I had one heck of a time trying to beat the first level on normal difficulty, and lowering the difficult to easy let me get to level two before I died. You must start each level over from the beginning if you are defeated; since levels can be quite long, this can get annoying. Sadly, the high difficulty of Jets’N’Guns Gold will probably turn inexperienced away and provide more frustration than fun.

The saving grace of Jets’N’Guns Gold is the ship upgrade model, as the game lets you upgrade your ship and purchase new ones using the money you earn through killing. This type of mechanic has been used before (Crusdaers of Space 2 for one) and Jets’N’Guns Gold does a good job with it. You can use your money to purchase front and rear conventional weapons, along with missiles and bombs (not terribly useful for space levels). The game has different ships that are gradually unlocked that offer different combinations of weapon slots along with handling characteristics. Jets’N’Guns Gold is one of the few games where each ship handles differently: you can feel the sluggish nature of some ships using the mouse, and you have to determine which setup is most appropriate for the next level. Each weapon in the game has its advantages and disadvantages, typically involving firing rate and damage. You start out with a basic ship with not much firepower, but once you get enough money to purchase the better ships, the game becomes chaotically fun (assuming you survive until then). You can also use special items that give you advanced characteristics like shields and slowing down time. You are also given the ability to upgrade your engines or hull, but these upgrades are very expensive. While the ship upgrades in Jets’N’Guns Gold add some strategy to the mix, the complexity of the game makes it ultimately have a small amount of appeal.

If you are especially skilled in side-scrolling arcade shooters, then Jets’N’Guns Gold is a fine title. The combination of constant action with ship upgrades makes it slightly ahead of the curve in terms of gaming value. However, most people won’t be able to experience a lot of the game due to the high level of difficulty: you’ll die quite often, and each time you’ll have to start the level from the beginning. Easy difficulty should be easy: if I’m dying on the second level, that doesn’t bode well for others that don’t play the sheer number of games I do. Maybe I just stink at games like this, but Jets’N’Guns Gold is just really, really tough. It’s a well designed and executed game, but Jets’N’Guns Gold is too difficult for its own good.