It was nearly six years ago that we got LUFTRAUSERS, a cool indie arcade shooter that, while it wasn’t without some issues, I did end up giving a positive recommendation to. Now we have Jet Lancer, a game that could prove to be a worthwhile successor.
Great graphics and music. Jet Lancer makes use of some excellently-done pixel graphics. You’ve got the backgrounds and all of their little details (especially when you’re in the city) and then everything else layered on top of them in a way that promotes contrast between the two. Despite the fact that there may be bullets, lasers, and planes flying all over the place, I had no difficulty seeing everything and keeping up with it all. The color choices are all solid, the sprites are nicely designed, and the various effects all look great in action and definitely aid the fast-paced nature of the gameplay.
Similar things can be said about the game’s choice of music, with a soundtrack that features a very powerful chiptune-guitar combo. It’s fast, it’s loud, and it definitely can be a bit chaotic, but it feels right at home here given the nature of the gameplay. That’s not to say that it’s all chaotic (rather, the game has some nice, mellow tracks for the dialogue scenes), but it’s pretty much the perfect complement to the gameplay, which, when combined with the graphics, makes for an excellent combo.
Fun and fast-paced gameplay. Jet Lancer is an excellent example of what makes these arcade shooters so fun. I’ll start with the movement, as that is what drives the gameplay here. Not only is it incredibly responsive, but it just feels good to play. Being able to cut engine mid-flight to do a complete 180 within seconds is something I’ll never get tired of and the fact that I’m blasting enemy ships while doing so just makes it that much better. The movement is a constant in this game, as if you ever stop, you’ll simply fall to your death.
However, it isn’t just the movement that’s constant, the enemy ships, projectiles, and other objectives are also being thrown at you at a very fast pace. You’ll have to constantly be making use of that movement in order to dodge the fifty projectiles flying towards you from all angles, especially once you get towards the end of the game. It’s a thrill ride from start to finish, with new enemies being introduced at a consistent pace to keep things interesting. The game may have some issues with regards to its mission variety (which I’ll get into later), but the core gameplay here is solid.
And then you have the upgrade system, which adds a bit of depth on top of that core gameplay. You’re able to equip a wide variety of upgrades, including some that buff your ability to do certain movements, fire certain projectiles, and even some that make the game more challenging. Of course, there’s also the different weapons to choose from outside of these upgrades, including lasers, missiles, and just straightforward projectiles. There’s a decent amount of customization here, which is a definite plus in my book.
Plenty of accessibility options. On top of having the usuals like fully customizable controls, video settings, and audio settings, Jet Lancer also has a number of nice accessibility features to further customize the experience. A lot of these make the game much easier, such as increasing the evade window or just outright giving you invincibility. Then you have more technical options, like being able to toggle thrust, minigun, and afterburn. I get pain in my index finger when holding down the triggers too long on a controller, so I was glad to have such toggles available to remedy this. You even have the option to completely disable the UI, which I imagine could also be used as a means to increase the difficulty. Whatever the case, these options are nice to have and I’m liking the trend of newer games including them.
Lack of mission variety. For all that the core gameplay may do right, unfortunately the actual mission variety could not keep up. The core of the game consists of simple elimination missions, capture the objective missions, and timed score attacks. It doesn’t take long for you to fall into a cycle of completing these same mission types over and over, with little variety outside of simply being in a different area. Sure, it’s fun to complete them maybe a couple times, but it gets tiring pretty quickly and the fact that the game is barely four hours long doesn’t help either. There’s the occasional oddball thrown at you (such as the stealth missions), but outside out of that there really isn’t that much in terms of variety.
Boring storyline. While this does not look like a game that would have its own storyline, it actually has one. And this isn’t a story that is told in just a few lines before each level, but one that actually takes up a decent chunk of the game, with full-length dialogue scenes and characters that even get a bit of development (even if that development is limited). That sounds great on paper, but unfortunately it just doesn’t work here. Although they definitely tried to give the characters some life, it’s really hard to care for any of them, or really to care for anything that is going on in the story for that matter.
The pacing is all over the place, the story developments are just pulled out of nowhere, and it really just felt like a loose connection of events to tie together the game’s levels rather than a proper storyline. It’s not the focus of the game for sure, but it takes up enough of the experience that the problems are noticeable.
Although it has its issues, Jet Lancer is still a fun enough arcade shooter. The core gameplay is solid, the graphics and music are nice, and the addition of accessibility options was good to see as well. However, the severe lack of mission variety does bring down the experience, along with the lackluster story tacked on top of it. I wouldn’t recommend it as an immediate buy, but it’s worth a look if you see it on sale.
You can buy Jet Lancer on Steam here.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.