Jets’N’Guns 2 Review

Now THIS is how you do a sequel.

Jets’N’Guns number one was originally brought into being in 2004, and the game emulated a lot of the anticipated playstyle of a game of that era. Rake in Grass, the developer, eventually brought the game over to Steam with a Gold edition, a version that, upon further inspection, may not have been the same version that I reviewed on the Switch just a moment ago. Players loved seeing the return of this upgrade-heavy, musically astonishing and surprisingly versatile horizontal shooter, which got Rake in Grass thinking. “Why not make another one?” After all, there has been a glut of sequels, ports and reboots of old games in the last few years, and players who were gamers back in the early 2000s are now working and thriving in their own worlds. They deserved a chance to see a new incarnation of what brought them joy once upon a time, and new players should see what it’s like when a game with SUCH an on-the-nose title goes for the second helping. That’s why, dear players, we are now entreated to the journey that is Jets’N’Guns 2.

If you’re familiar with the original Jets’N’Guns, you basically know what’s up with Jets’N’Guns 2. You’ve got a ship, you add and remove weapons from it, you upgrade, you power through, you get super pissed off at your weapons overheating, and you try to move forward. That part, for the grand scheme of it all, hasn’t changed. You’re still a pilot doing their best in a world where everything about some grand, unknown evil is threatening to tear apart the fabric of the universe (and time itself, if you got far enough in the previous title). You still just want to get from point A to point B without exploding. You still need to grind and get a ton of cash in order to make it, but you still can’t spend all your money in one place, lest you end up with nothing for future upgrades and, worse, weapons that are too powerful for your ship/engine to handle. In theory, there’s not a lot that’s changed. That theory, however, is pretty wrong.

From the drop, there are some great technical changes that have been added. First, the primary and alternative extra weapons. Now, besides the guns in the front and the back and the bombs/missiles that you’re launching, an additional set of weapons can be assigned to the shoulder triggers, and you even start with one of my personal favourites: an energy shield that’s supposed to be defensive but can be used as a battering ram in a pinch. These weapons don’t affect the cooling or ammunition cycles of the other weapons, but, instead, use a separate purple energy bar that can be refilled by collecting purple energy floaties in the air. These things are everywhere and happen from nearly every enemy encounter, so keep an eye out for that.

That’s the other thing: drops are now significantly higher. To help balance a bit of the new approach to the game (more on that in a second), Jets’N’Guns 2 allows there to be a ton of collectibles floating about the screen that appear with astonishing commonality. Tons of mobs drop not only the energy for the alt weapons but also mini hull improvements, acting as incremental heals and permitting you to play in a significantly more haphazard way. The number of larger hull upgrades (25/50%) are pretty much the same in frequency, but the gold drops are way higher as well. As for cargo…I’d say it’s about the same, though I could be less than thorough and, as a result, less well off in getting the items.

The original Jets’N’Guns had an air about it that was clearly aping from yesteryear, and there was nothing wrong with that. Rake in Grass wanted to present something original, but not too wildly different, allowing players to see parallels and similarities while enjoying some original approach. With Jets’N’Guns 2, this is clearly a modern, bombastic game, and it stuns you in the face from the very beginning. The soundtrack which has always been praised for being dynamic and driving, is significantly stronger and more intense. While Machinae Supremacy did a wonderful job with the first game, this second instalment rattles your bones and gets your blood positively boiling. If the first soundtrack was Ride the Lightning, this second entry is certainly Master of Puppets. It’s freaking awesome, and players should be sure to have headphones at all times, particularly if you dive into the special Christmas level that you can unlock.

For another, Jets’N’Guns 2 just does everything, well, better. When the first game launched in 2004, the graphics were great for the era, while still giving a nod to the older titles from which it had been inspired. The results were some fairly static if detailed backgrounds, some canned explosions to help sell the magic, some decent sprite work that was missing a few frames and some fairly unenthusiastic text when all was said and done (Mission Completed never looked particularly excited). In this sequel, Rake in Grass has gone above and beyond to shape everything and give it a stronger, more vibrant and almost totally alien feel. Your ship is more contoured and detailed, slicing through the air with the deft menace of a laser Katana. The enemies incorporate greater levels of movement and executable coordination, allowing for stronger AI counterattacks and defenses. The items glisten and gleam on the screen, tantalizing you to risk serious damage in order to grab some brass rings. One of my greatest complaints from the previous title – crashing into a landscape that looked like the background – is gone, replaced with a sincere appreciation that there’s clarity and distinction in where it is safe and not safe to fly. Suffering drag pains is still a serious problem, but that’s more due to my ineptitude with the massive levels and not the game’s fault.

Jets’N’Guns 2 also increases the sheer amount of gameplay itself. Instead of starting off with just a handful of weapons and accessories to choose from, the player is shown a MASSIVE catalogue just after the tutorial, overwhelming you with choices of lasers, missiles, bombs and the ever important alternate weapons. Additionally, these guns then can have extra facets added to them, additional modifiers that can add certain traits to the weapons, like slowing down enemies or even sapping their health in a vampiric fashion. While the first Jets’N’Guns set out to gradually roll things out and let the player course their fashion through incremental education and exercise, Jets’N’Guns 2 seeks to give you full disclosure from the very beginning, allowing the player to chart their own path to weapon totality. The cash rewards from the missions seemed better in the first game, but it balances out with the prices of upgrades not being as expensive in the sequel. Players who are serious about carving a path of flaming justice from the start to the finish should take a serious four or five minutes to read through the available goods and make note of what you want to try first or soon thereafter: it prevents you from wasting time between missions. I will admit that I didn’t see different ship types to try out, but I also didn’t beat the game, so that might be something available towards the end or maybe in the post game.

But capitalizing more on the gameplay, the levels of Jets’N’Guns 2 seem bigger and more exploratory as well. You can sail through multiple screens, edging towards the top and bottom and sometimes plummeting underground to discover new pathways and new areas you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. You’re rewarded handsomely for your bravery and curiosity, even more so if you manage to survive whatever onslaught you happen upon in the course of your travels. Rake In Grass has done this wonderful magic trick of both giving you a larger and more eclectic horizontal shooter while still keeping it moving forward and driving in a way that instills the same urgency and chaos of a much smaller arena. The second mission even sends you screaming across the cosmos, darting through tight spaces and having mere moments to deal with enemies who are here to wreck your day. It’s even better than just a regular bullet hell game: it’s got an arcade feel to it that sets your hair on end and keeps your eyes glued to the screen. It’s a shooting experience that makes you feel like a kid, or makes a kid feel like a damn warrior.

Jets’N’Guns 2 really blew me away, and I’m exceptionally glad to have played the first and the new one back to back. While I will admit I was a tad underwhelmed with the parent game, this is one offspring that can kick ass and chew bubble gum with the absolute best of them. If you’ve got any interest in a horizontal shooter that can blow your skull to the back of the auditorium, then this is the jet for you.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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Jets’N’Guns 2 Review
  • Gameplay - 9/10
    9/10
  • Graphics - 9/10
    9/10
  • Sound - 9/10
    9/10
  • Replay Value - 9/10
    9/10
User Review
0 (0 votes)
Comments Rating 0 (0 reviews)
Overall
9/10

Summary

When a new game has improved on every single point of the original, you can tell that it was a sequel worth waiting for.