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The Slacker's Guide - Return of the Side Scroller: Jets'n'Guns

by Chris Barylick
May 5th, 2006

A game may become retro, but a good thing never dies. This is the prevailing logic to Rake in Grass' Jets'n'Guns, a side scrolling space shooter in the classic vein of shooting everything to save the universe, and one of the most fun games I've played in the last few months (thanks to MacCentral's Peter Cohen for bringing this to my attention).

A shareware title almost in name only, Jets'n'Guns demonstrates what OpenGL, outstanding animation and a great soundtrack can do. Combine this with elements such as an upgradeable character, level checkpoints and interesting background/secondary elements (strafe a deck and small fires will break out that can inflict damage on ground forces) and the game becomes both addictive and fun.

It's a mix of the new and the old here, an enjoyable gameplay style having been beefed up with modern day elements. Even so, the title holds on to its roots by presenting the player with an enormous variety of enemies and levels to fight through. Visually, there's always something interesting happening on screen and old twitch-gaming reflexes of your youth are brought back in order to survive the swath of laser and artillery firing threatening your ship.

Taking down the first boss droid in Rake in Grass' Jets'n'Guns.

It's easy enough to pay homage to something tried and true, but the creators made the effort to add in some realistic elements that make the game that much better. Certain limitations, such as capacity and heat load, prevent the player from advancing too quickly. Yes, it's possible to turn your ship into an all-powerful death machine by the third or fourth level, but restrictions such as weight, an insufficient cooling system and the need for higher grades of armor come into consideration. With each upgrade that can be purchased for the ship come new choices that alter necessary play styles and make the title more than a hold-down-the-fire-button-at-all-times game.

Finally, it's the little things that make Jets'n'Guns work. Take down an approaching spaceship and a dozen astronauts in space suits may emerge from the explosion, each firing weapons at your ship. Additional details like this keep the player on their toes and make the title fun while level bosses provide both drama and an additional challenge throughout the game.

Saving the universe through extensive use of laser weaponry.

If Rake In Grass is an unknown game developer, they won't be for long, especially considering the detail they've put into this title. Beautifully rendered explosions tear across the screen while an hour-long metal soundtrack by Machinae Supremacy avoids the repetition of the standard arcade game noise set.

Jets'n'Guns is a 19.7 megabyte download which expands to occupy 34.6 megabytes of hard drive space when decompressed. The game requires a 1.5 GHz or faster G4 or G5 processor and ATI Radeon 9600 or Nvidia GeForce 4 graphics card. Jets'n'Guns retails for a $19.95 shareware registration fee.

Worth every penny, Jets'n'Guns is representative of what shareware games can be, the title's quality standing toe to toe with just about everything commercial games have been known to offer. Both representative of a classic genre with some interesting elements and considerations added in for good measure, I intend to keep this in my Dock for a long time to come and can't wait to see what the three guys at Rake In Grass have in store for the future.

That wraps it up for this week. As always, if you see anything new, cool or useful in the Mac universe,


Chris Barylick covers games for The Mac Observer, and has written for Inside Mac Games, MacGamer, UPI, the Washington Post, and other publications.

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