Developer: Final Form Games
We usually make a point of ignoring blurb and marketing spiel here at Dealspwn... but we're about to try a little experiment. After reading the next 25 words, lifted directly from the product description, you will almost certainly want to buy this exceptional indie shoot'em up. Behold:
Jamestown: Legend Of The Lost Colony is a neo-classical top-down shooter for up to 4 players, set on 17th-century British Colonial Mars.
To those of you who haven't already queued up the download, allow me to explain exactly why you should.
Legend Of The Lost Colony tells the story of a daring fugitive who's fled to Jamestown after falling foul of the British Empire. However, Jamestown is on Mars in this alternate reality, and as the indigenous Martians and Spanish forces ally in an attempt to oust the British regime, our hero realises that the only way to clear his name is to find a mysterious lost settlement.
This is possibly the best videogame premise we've ever seen - but now it's time to focus on gameplay and mechanics. Which, we're delighted to say, are about as tight as you could ask for. Jamestown is a traditional two-dimensional shoot'em up that tasks players with controlling a satisfyingly retro sled as they careen over the surface of colonised Mars. A dizzying array of enemies await, including mecha-conquistadors, terrifying aliens and some nifty multi-stage bosses. It's good, honest SHMUP fare - and served up beautifully. You'll be guaranteed a smooth and responsive experience regardless of whether you play on a gamepad or keyboard (with full key binding that'll appeal to fellow control freaks).
The term Bullet Hell is frequently used incorrectly to describe traditional shoot'em ups, but Jamestown thoroughly earns its label thanks to enormous, terrifying amounts of incoming firepower. Enemy projectiles frequently form extra walls and labyrinths in their own right, requiring players to concentrate on evasion over assault for several minutes at a time. Thankfully killing enough foes releases gold and gears, which in turn can be used to activate Vaunt Mode. While Vaunting, each ship is shrouded in an impenetrable shield, enjoys enhanced firepower and accrues points quickly - meaning that using it wisely can make the difference between close victory and miserable failure.
It's definitely worth mentioning that Jamestown provides much better value than your typical garden variety 2D shooter. In an interesting twist, enemy attacks, behaviours and attacks are different depending on the difficulty level - which essentially makes for five games in one. On top of this, completing levels reward you with money that can be spent on new ships (all of which pack wildly different secondary weapons) and a number of challenge modes that are useful for practice as well as replayability.
Every great shooter needs a gimmick. Ikaruga has binary colours. Guwange has the shikigami. And Jamestown has... co-op? Rather than bolting on multiplayer as a last resort, Final Form Games has built much of the experience around the concept of four-player cooperative shenanigans. Downed players can be revived if a single brave soldier manages to stay in the fight, meaning that you'll become a living legend if you can pull it off. Jamestown's cooperative exploits will provide the backdrop for countless water cooler stories and tall tales between gamers - but there's a catch.
This focus on cooperation is all well and good, but it leads us to one of the most bizarre omissions of the package. Jamestown features no online multiplayer whatsoever. The chance of four players being able to comfortably cram themselves around a flickering monitor is fairly unlikely, (putting it mildly) and we simply can't understand Final Form didn't include it as a core gameplay pillar. We've never marked down a game for omitting online multiplayer before, but in this case, it's appropriate to do so.
Any lag or latency could prove fatal in a bullet hell shooter... but there have to be ways of getting around it beyond cutting the feature outright.
But all is forgiven as we've arguably saved the best for last. If you have no great love for retro gaming or pixel art, you'll still be impressed by Jamestown's detailed sprite work and lavish environments. If you love all things 16-Bit, however, you will likely burst into floods of joyful tears. Every enemy, every background element, every projectile and even every menu looks uniquely and unmistakeably Jamestown. There's no hint of nostalgia or derivation despite the faux-retro style, and Final Form Games have created an identity that's all their own.
- Authentic arcade thrills with a new twist
- Beautiful and unique artwork
- Great value as well as quality
- No online multiplayer
- Have you ever tried to fit four players around one monitor...
- ...when at least one person has to use the keyboard?
The Short Version: Jamestown: Legend Of The Lost Colony is a charming, challenging and thoroughly worthwhile SHMUP. It's an arcade classic for the new decade - and you'll be hard-pressed to find better on the PC.