You watched every Schwarzenegger blockbuster packed with blood and bombs, you rocked out to bands composed of mutilated drummers and hair spray, and you took the gamer tag “Goose” to honor the fallen hero in Top Gun. Yet not since 1989 have you encountered anything as head-banging and gamepad-smashing as this new indie side-scrolling shoot ’em up; Jets’n’Guns Gold.
The developer, Rake in Grass, has poured an incredible amount of design and detail into this little gem of Genesis-style flashback romp. Loaded with masses of enemies, a stellar array of graphic goodies, a handful of customization options and some serious silliness, this game’s easily-dismissed flaws lie in it’s dated conceptual design. But even then, what is dated to one player is fresh and bold to another. This is standard old-school arcade with Steam-age design (see what I did there).
You play a mercenary pilot flying a space worthy fighter ship in glorious 32-bit colors. You take on 43 different missions from the standard ‘defend’ and ‘destroy’ type all the way through to the more bizarre, ‘prevent alien perverts from ravaging sexy scientists’ type. Environments range from space and cloudy blue skies to war torn deserts, to dense jungles and even underwater realms. As you progress, you earn more money and unlock new ships, weapons and special items.
All of this would be pretty standard and even a slice of boring if not for the charming dose of ‘crazy’ liberally blended in. Crazy like ‘flying a hot-dog truck, shooting down predatory sperm aliens, defending against zombies hurling their detached limbs at you, as you steal a super tanker of home-brewed draft away from Borg-like, self-aware beer determined to intoxicate you,’ crazy. Seriously. And the game designers don’t stop at mere randomness. They are very willing to poke fun at themselves as developers and even use in-game text to criticize themselves for occasionally boring graphics. (Look for the Lame Secret Spot Marking Developers Indicator.)
As mentioned above, the dated core design adds some irritation. Some levels are just insanely impossible especially when some ship designs are larger than certain narrow openings that the player is required to fly through. And while blasting flying beer bottle and sperm fighters is immensely satisfying, the game does suffer a lack of replay-ability. Defeating a level rarely provides more than some extra money that you can’t use until you unlock the next higher ship or find new weapons… neither of which have clearly identified goals. I kept playing with the same ship for more than 7 missions before I was offered a new choice. And while you can test your weapon upgrades and layouts before starting a level, most weapons are little more than cosmetic changes to the effects.
But for a game that lets you blast millions of enemy ships, decapitate their pilots in mid-air, and blow apart 1950’s Cadillacs all to some old school arcade music, you have a fun and funny waste of a Friday night. Just be sure to shower thoroughly on Saturday morning to wash the retro away.