Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony – Review

Jamestown Review

developed by Final Form Games for PC

I’ve played many, many, many shmups or “shoot’em ups” in my time.  Yes, they were a dime-a-dozen in the old days when arcade cabinets were still profitable and popular.  And yes, the genre has probably spawned more clones than any other genre (perhaps more than the casual Match 3 puzzle games genre).  There’s a reason why people keep coming back to shmups though.  They’re easy to learn, tough to master, fast paced, fun in short bursts, and challenging if you’re the type of gamer who strives for the top of the scoreboard.  For these reasons these types of games have always had a lasting appeal among gamers, otherwise developers wouldn’t keep making them.

Enter Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony, a shmup that takes place on… wait for it… 17th Century British Colonial Mars!  If that setting isn’t trippy enough for a shmup fan then I don’t know what else could possibly please a sci-fi shmup fan.  Is it weird for a shmup to take place in this sort of setting?  Hell yeah!  But it’s also a tremendous amount of fun.  Developed by Final Form Games, Jamestown is by far one of the best, if not THE BEST, 90’s-style neo-retro vertical shmup I’ve played to date!  Everything from controls, to gameplay mechanics, to graphics and sound work amazingly well together.  It reminds me of those classic arcade style shmups made by Taito, Psikyo, Cave, Raizing/8ing, and Visco Games, to name a few.  If you even recognize any of those names of the mid 90’s from your favorite vertical shmup arcade cabinet then you can stop reading this now and go buy Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony, you won’t regret it!

First off, the game is 1 – 4 players (local co-op only).  It’s a blast to play through the levels with a few friends or on your own.  The multiplayer can get a little hectic but it never gets old.  Thankfully the controls are tight.  Your ship moves with precision and accuracy.  Weapons, while limited in the beginning, have different shooting patterns and each weapon has a unique secondary fire that can drastically change the way you play through the games levels.  These weapons can also be upgraded for a short period of time, doubling the amount of points you get per kill while also increasing the strength of your weapon.

To power up your weapons you’ll need to destroy enemies and collect the gold that drops from them.  As you collect this gold your vaunt meter fills up.  Once the vaunt meter is full you can utilize your weapons power-up and you’ll even be surrounded by a large shield that will block and destroy any enemy bullets that the shield comes into contact with.  The shield lasts only for a brief period, but your vaunt meter will deplete more slowly and can be replenished by destroying more enemies and capturing any of the gold that they drop.  The longer you’re in this powered-up state, the stronger your weapons will be and the more points you’ll rack up.  It makes for some fast paced action with some strategy mixed in for good measure.  The strategic use of using your vaunt meter and keeping it full becomes a very important aspect throughout the levels of Jamestown, especially when you want to achieve a high score.

Jamestown‘s 5 Arcade style campaign levels take place in a 17th century Mars setting.  There’s a very elaborate, very fictional, story that accompanies the main campaign mode.  The story is an added bonus though it’s not absolutely necessary to pay attention to the story in order to enjoy the game or it’s shooter mechanics.  You can simply skip each of the cutscenes, but I think some gamers will appreciate the amount of work that’s actually gone into this atypical setting and story.  Beyond the campaign mode, there are an additional 20 bonus levels to test your shmup skills at and a Gauntlet mode that allows players to play through each arcade level consecutively, with only 2 credits to continue your game however.  Besides the multiple game modes, you’ll also earn money by playing any and all of these modes which can be spent on new ships, bonus challenges, and other goodies that adds to the games immensely impressive replay value.

The graphics are wonderfully reminiscent of the mid 90’s arcade games.  The sprites are big and colorful while the levels, enemies, and bosses, make for some great eye candy.  If you’ve played any of the classic vertical shmups from that era such as Don Pachi, Vasara, and Battle Bakraid, you’ll know exactly what to expect graphically.  Jamestown sits among the best looking vertical shooters.

The audio is very good as well.  Everything from the intense arcade style music to the sci-fi sound fx blend with the gameplay perfectly.  The most important thing is that for a game that requires twitch reflexes music and sound shouldn’t be annoying, and thankfully the music and sound only adds to that classic arcade feeling of Jamestown.

You’d be hard pressed to find another vertical shmup that sets the bar for vertical shooters in the way that Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony does.  The gameplay is easy to get into, the mechanics require practice to master, the theme and setting is extraordinary, and the graphics and audio are top-notch!  The overall story is nonsensical but fun, much like those crazy Japanese shmups of the 90’s.  Shmup fans cannot pass this title up because Jamestown is what arcade style shmups are all about.  It’s fast, fun, has a tremendous amount of replay value and is extremely addictive.  Aquiring a highscore will require practice but Jamestown is so good that you won’t want to stop playing until you’ve reached a comfortable spot among the leaderboards.  Even if you don’t compete for a high score, you’ll have a blast playing through the different levels with up to 4 players, destroying enemies and battling huge bosses with intense bullet patterns.

You can head over to the Jamestown official website for more info.  You’ll find it available for purchase through popular download portals such as Steam, Direct2Drive, and GamersGate.

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