30 Reviews in 30 Days, Day 29 – Jamestown


In order to still make my 30 Reviews in 30 days deadline, I am having to do two reviews today as I was unable to post one yesterday due to website issues. The first one I have posted is ESPN NFL 2K5, my favorite sports game. The other is a vertical schmup that really surprised me, Final Form Games’ Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony.

Though the guys at Just Press Start had been talking about how good Jamestown was for a while, I must admit the game did not look that impressive to me. Sure, it was a nice looking throwback to the older shmups, but $9.99 seemed just a bit pricey for it. This was why I was glad to see it show up with one of the Humble Bundles, which encouraged me to pick it up and give it a try.

Once I did, I wished I had not been so skeptical.

Mars Unlike You Have Ever Seen It

The graphics are both nostalgic and yet suited to current computers.

It’s the 17th century, and Mars has been colonized by the British. They are currently embroiled in a war with Spanish forces who have laid claim to the planet as well. There is also the indigenous aliens, who are not about to let Britain control their planet.

Okay, so the story to Jamestown is a little outlandish, but it works because Final Form Games does not dwell on it. The setting allows for a 17th century futurism look that is both charming and rather well done. The 2D art style is retro without being annoying, and the animations are smooth and well designed. In short, Jamestown has a look that hearkens back to the days of the old vertical shooters of the arcades, and this is not a bad thing.

Not everything about the game is retro, however. The musical score for the game is rich and varied, adding to the overall feel and setting. Francisco Cerda did a phenomenal job of putting together a soundtrack that enhances the experience, and I highly recommend buying it if you don’t already own it. Luckily, if you bought the Humble Bundle 4, you got the soundtrack with the game.

So the setting and music are great, but when it comes to schmups, it’s the gameplay that really matters. Well, if you were concerned the attention to these other details might detract from said gameplay, you need not be.

Familiar Yet Unique

The basic gameplay for Jamestown is much like other vertical shmups. You pilot your ship through the levels, trying to destroy the enemies while keeping from being destroyed yourself. One thing that makes Jamestown more enjoyable than many other games of this genre is shots really need to hit the center of your shop to count as hits, as opposed to just barely brushing any sprite that happens to be a part of your ship. This not only makes it easier to maneuver through the numerous shots and enemies on the level, it makes you more willing to take chances to take out enemies.

The Beam ship’s alternate fire in action.

Why is it so important to be willing to take those risks? Every enemy you destroy leaves behind gold, with larger and more numerous pieces being left behind by larger enemies. The gold not only increases your score within a level and lets you purchase items including new ships between them, it also helps fill up your Vaunt meter. Once that meter is full, you can enter Vaunt mode, which activates a bullet proof shield for a short time and doubles both your firepower and the score multiplier. You can keep this Vaunt mode running for a longer period of time by grabbing more gold, or you can shut it off before the meter runs out, creating another temporary shield. This mechanic adds a new level of strategy to the game, helping separate it from other games of its genre.

I mentioned different ships before, and Jamestown has four of them: Gunner, Charge, Beam and Bomber. Each has a different main and secondary fire, and which one you use depends both upon the enemies you are facing and your own personal preference. I really like the Charge ship myself, as I like being able to fire charged up shots that are powerful enough to wreak havoc on enemies.

One other nice feature of the game is the challenge levels. There are over 20+ challenge levels which not only bend the rules of the game itself, they help you learn to use your various ships even more efficiently, allowing you to better handle the higher difficulties on the main levels.

What Is There Not to Like?

Just how do you get 4 players for local coop on a computer?

Jamestown is good. Very good, in fact. There are a couple of issues with it, however. First, the game is short. There are not many levels in the main story, and schmup veterans may find they beat it relatively quickly, or they would if you could play straight through it. If you are playing on lower levels of difficulty, however, you will run across issues unlocking stages. You will need to be able to play the earlier levels on higher difficulties to unlock the later ones, something which may cause trouble for those not as used to playing these kind of vertical shooters.

The real issue with the game is the coop. It’s not that the coop does not look like it would be fun. On the contrary, the possibility of playing up to 4 players coop in Jamestown sounds like a selling point, until you realize that coop is only local. How you are supposed to get 4 player local coop on a PC is kind of beyond me. and it just does not seem to make much sense when the game itself is on Steam.

Even with this flaws, Jamestown is a game fans of schmups or even people looking for some good nostalgic gaming with some new twists will enjoy. Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony gets a 9 out of 10.

1 more game to go in my 30 Reviews in 30 Games. I started out with a Game of the Year contender, and I will be ending with one.

 

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