Thursday, June 9, 2011

Review - Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony

A 2D shoot-'em-up is a rare thing to come out of a western game developer but Final Form Games is showing us that it can be done properly with their recently released Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony for the Personal Computer. This top-down shmup borrows the best elements from their Japanese counterparts in both visual presentation and gameplay system to ultimately create a game that should feel very familiar to genre fans.

That Jamestown sure looks like a fun place to be...

Jamestown does feature a storyline that is presented using static cut-scenes between the levels. The story is an alternate universe twist on the exploration of the "New World", which in this case being Mars. It's a bit odd but it works, especially with the stirring soundtrack that accompanies the story slides which later echoes throughout the game's five stages. The story is as nonsensical as what you would normally find in other games in the genre but at least it is presented with style. The gameplay is the real story of this game with 4 different ships to choose from, each with their own set of two unique weapons. When you destroy the enemies, they will leave behind gold coins that you can collect to increase your "Vaunt" meter. When that meter is full, you can charge up a temporary shield that will absorb enemy bullets. Activating the shield will also grant you a score multiplier as well as increased weapon damage as long as the meter is not depleted so you can keep destroying enemies and collect coins to refill the meter. You can also choose to completely deplete the remainder of the meter by activating another shield while in this mode but this will result in your Vaunt meter being disabled for a brief period of time. This system creates an interesting gameplay dynamic because you have to lean the stage layout and enemy patterns to know when it is best to keep the score multiplier up and when it is best to gain access to the shield. You can also activate the Vaunt early and see if you could keep the score multiplier up throughout the length of the stage. The game does provide access to online leaderboards so you can check how you fare against other players.

The road to redemption can take you to unexpected places.

The game offers quite a number of unlockables. As a matter of fact, you have to buy 3 out of the 4 ships to begin with. Gaining ducats to unlock things from the shop is easy - all you have to do it keep playing the game. It is cool that the final stage can only be opened up if you are able to defeat the previous stages in "Legendary" mode. The game can be very easy at the lower difficulty levels but bump it up and you have a hardcore bullet-hell shooter in your hand: don't worry, the hit box on your ship is quite small. The best way to play the game is via the "Gauntlet" mode where you have to go through all the game's stages with a limited amount of credits. Jamestown uses clean, pixelated 2D graphics but despite the purposely aged look, it carries a classic charm with it. Though I prefer my modern shmups to use state of the art 3D engine on a 2D plane, the art style found here is quite pretty to look at and everything from the ships, bullets, and explosions is animated beautifully.

This one is called "Lady of the Lake".

Jamestown is a really fun and incredibly polished shmup. These guys at Final Form Games may not be original, but they certainly know what they are doing. I surely hope that they will continue making shmups because if Jamestown is any indication, things can only get better from here on out. The game costs only $9.99 (there is also a 10% discount being offered for it if you hurry) and it is certainly worth more than that. It can be played up to 4 players simultaneously. Unfortunately, the multiplayer option is only for local play and that is the only blemish on this extremely competent shooter.

RATING: 4 out of 5

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