Jets’n’Guns 2 – PS5 Review 1

Jets’n’Guns 2 is a horizontally-scrolling shoot ’em up from Czech coders Rake in Grass.  They’re a three-person crew who aren’t the most prolific studio we’ve ever seen, with less than twenty games in almost twenty years, which is evidenced a little by the fact that this sequel came 16 years after the 2004 original (as a 2020 PC release).  These games have always had a pretty good reputation among PC shoot ’em up fans and now this sequel has made it across to PSN although the original never did.

In terms of sub-genres, this is much closer to the ‘Euro Shmup’ sort of game rather than being any sort of bullet-hell sort of caper.  That is to say that instead of you and your enemies spewing out mountains of bullets, this game is a bit more restrained in terms of how much firepower is on the screen and how powerful it is.

Right from the off, you’ll notice that even the basic enemies take a few shots to destroy.  That’s not usually something we approve of in shoot ’em ups.  We didn’t fall in love with this genre because we like flying around in space taking out enemy fleets armed with a peashooter.  And so initially we needed to be won over.  Thankfully Jets’n’Guns 2 managed to do that and that’s because everything else in the game is surprisingly dynamic and exciting (and because you can soon replace those weak-assed guns).

The game offers you four control buttons along with the usual left-stick/d-pad for movement.  is your main fire button, shooting your primary weapon in an auto-firing fashion, manually drops bombs (these are infinite but have a cooldown) while the two trigger buttons set off your ‘devices’ although you initially only start with one, an ‘energy barrier’ shield type thing.

The action plays out as you’d expect with you flying towards the right while enemies arrive, mostly from that side, and either try to shoot or ram you.  You’ll probably feel a little underpowered at first as even the first level is no joke in terms of the amount of foes you’ll be facing off against, and to compound your pain there’s an end of level boss too.

This is where the game’s extensive upgrading system comes into play.  When you finish a level, you’ll be taken to the in-game shop.  Here you can start buying and equipping upgrades to install in your ship’s many slots.  It’s not brilliantly explained but the gist is that you get three forward facing weapon slots, one rear facing, the bomb we talked about before, an auto-firing missile as well as utility (gem) slots for those guns, two device slots and six others for equipping… er… equipment.

The temptation to just ram those slots full of the highest DPS providing equipment is tempting but Jets’n’Guns 2 does have an overheating mechanic which is usually an instant turn-off for us in shoot ’em ups.  Thankfully, it’s not too restrictive and you’re able to temper it quite well using equipment and gems that reduce how quickly your weapon temperature accrues.  So finding the balance between energy efficiency, damage and other effects is obviously the key to success here.

It’s a good system and some of the gear you can get is quite interesting.  There’s scope for experimentation along the way and thankfully the shop is pretty fair when it comes to selling off unwanted gear, so you can afford to try a few things out.  We ultimately found the best success with a mixture of cooling items, anti-matter generation (this is what powers the devices mapped to your trigger buttons), extra armour and one that increases your score based on how many humans you kill.  But when certain levels and bosses came along that made things tricky, we did have to change and adapt which is exactly what you want from this system.  A lot of games give you options you’ll never ever want or need but Jets’n’Guns 2 tends to make things more useful.

So, on a fundamental level the game mechanics are sound.   Having to shoot enemies multiple times while worrying about weapon temperature should be a recipe for an unsatisfying shooter but they’ve done a good job of balancing that here and a lot of that is down to just how mad and creative this game is.  Right from the off you’ll find yourself destroying large structures in every level, creating big blasts and screen shaking shockwaves while enemies get blasted into the air.  There’s a real sense of destructive power and it provides both excitement but also some tactical depth too.  Do you take out that gang of enemies using your primary weapons or do you try to destroy the platform they’re on using your bombs?  The latter might buy you back a bit of cooling time on your gun or replenish some health (if you’ve got the right gadget attached that does that if you stop shooting).

It’s all presented in a really impressive fashion.  Shoot ’em ups used to be an ‘eye candy’ genre especially when things like R-Type were coming out in the late ’80s.  Of course nowadays the pixel art movement has given a lot of them an unwanted 8 or 16 bit aesthetic so it’s good to see a game like this come out with good visuals, a bit of creativity, some variation and a host of screen-filling bosses to cower from but ultimately destroy.  Indeed, apart from a couple of them, the boss battles were pretty much a joy to get through as they offered a good mix of originality and challenge.

Once you beat the game, you’re offered the chance to start it all again on a higher difficulty, of which there are ten in total, so there’s some good longevity here.  You’ll keep finding bigger and better weapons and gear as you progress, so it all feels pretty well-balanced and fair even if each new level does initially feel like a bit of a leap.  And between that and a few secrets to find, there’s plenty of extras to dig into here.  There’s even a really cool little Tetris style mini-game that borrows from Mortal Kombat.  We loved it.

We’re forever looking on PSN for the next great shoot ’em up and Jets’n’Guns 2 delivers.  From its deep and enjoyable gameplay to the chaotic presentation and cheeky humour (we see your Manic Miner references, Rake in Grass), there’s a lot to like here.  It feels kind of like the perfected distillation of the Amiga-era shoot ’em up, full of spectacle and charm and we’re loving it enough to consider actually buying it for our mostly-neglected Nintendo Switch.  That’s how good it is.

Jets'n'Guns 2
9 Overall
+ Excellent action
+ Dynamic and exciting presentation
+ Good upgrade system
+ Mortal Tetrix!
+ Great humour
+ Good longevity
- Overheating mechanic is a little unnecessary
Jets'n'Guns 2 takes its cues from the Amiga-era 'Euro Shmup' sub-genre but adds a ton of excitement, tactical options and fun to it. It's up there as one of the best shoot 'em ups available on PSN today.

About Richie

Rich is the editor of PlayStation Country. He likes his games lemony and low-budget with a lot of charm. This isn't his photo. That'll be Rik Mayall.

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