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.

Conclusion:
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.

Blackwell Deception coming soon to a PC near you!

Wadjet Eye Games should be a familiar name to indie and adventure game players.  They’re the ones behind those great retro style point-and-click adventures such as The Shivah, The Blackwell Series, Puzzle Bots, and Gemini Rue.

The fourth installment of their ghost-themed Blackwell adventure series, Blackwell Deception, will be released for PC on October 12, 2011.  However, you don’t have to wait that long to try the game out.  Simply go to Wadjet Eye Games or download the demo right here, right now!

The game looks and sounds great so far.   You’ll be able to purchase and play Blackwell Deception on October 12, or you can Pre-order the game between now and launch day for some limited edition exclusive bonuses.  Here’s what you get:

  • Downloadable preorder offer: For $14.99, preorder customers get convenient download access to Blackwell Deception on launch day, as well as a free downloadable copy of the series’ acclaimed third installment, Blackwell Convergence, to enjoy right away.
  • Limited edition DVD preorder offer: For $24.99, preorder customers can reserve a limited edition DVD that includes all four Blackwell games, an MP3 soundtrack, animated Blackwell shorts, and other bonus materials. These customers also get a free downloadable copy of Blackwell Convergence to play now and convenient download access to Blackwell Deception on launch day. Limited edition DVDs are expected to ship in late October and free worldwide shipping is included in the price.

Personally, I can’t wait to play this latest installment in the Blackwell series.  I’ve always been impressed with the quality of Wadjet Eye Games.  This latest title looks like it will be equally as entertaining and impressive.  Adventure gamers make sure to mark October 12 on your calendar!

Gratuitous Space Battles – “Parasites” Expansion Pack Released

Had enough laser blasting, missile launching, shield penetrating fun in Gratuitous Space Battles yet?  No?  Good!

Want a new race, new ship designs, weapons, equipment, and other cool bonuses?   Yes?  Excellent!

Positech Games has just released the latest Expansion Pack for GSB featuring The Parasites.  Keep reading for more info on what you’ll get with this new expansion.

What the Expansion Pack Contains:

  • – 10 New ships. 4 Cruisers 3 Frigates and 3 fighters, all in a new graphical style by the same artist who did the original GSB artwork. The parasite ships have multiple translucent sections in varying colors, coming accross as classy, expensive, but also not to be messed with…
  • – 3 New ship equipment:  The flak cannon is a cruiser weapon designed to target enemy fighter swarms. The cannon ahs an ‘area-of-effect’ damage as well as hitting the target ship. The Plasma slinger is a small but ultra-high-rate-of-fire plasma torpedo weapon. This is the first plasma weapon that can have multiple torpedoes in flight at the same time. The missile revenge scrambler is a whole new type of ECM weapon that actually sends missile back to attack the ship that launched them, rather thamn just scrambling their guidance systems.
  • – New ship bonuses. The parasites build these ships to last. Most of the new hulls have both integrity and armor bonuses. The parasites aren’t so good on the shields front, but they make up for it with stronger armor.
  • – 1 New Scenario. One new map for you to fight against the parasites, and to use in online challenges. Obviously you can use the race in fighting any existing maps, from any other DLC or the base game.

You can pick up the Parasites Expansion Pack for $5.99.  Be sure to check out Positech’s other sim-style strategy games while you’re there!

Browser based RPG – “Misfortune”

It’s pretty amazing how far web browser games have come.  I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m blown away by how detailed these games are becoming.  Browser based games are no longer limited to being dumbed down versions of larger games.  You’ll find Puzzle games, Action platformers, Point-and-Click Adventures, Bullet-Hell Shmups, and even fully fleshed out Role-Playing Games.

Not all of these browser games are equal in quality mind you.  Some, like the recent Wonderputt, that I enjoyed and also reviewed, show just how great a browser based game can be when given lots of spit and polish.  Though the gameplay was straight forward the presentation was excellent.

Misfortune, developed by Loadingames, happens to be another one of those titles that shares similarities in quality with high production values, excellent presentation, and fairly straight forward gameplay.  Unlike Wonderputt though, Misfortune is a full fledged RPG with a lot of that same polish and extra level of care.  (Click these images below!)

 

From the newsletter:

Misfortune is a steampunk RPG browser
game. In the game you follow the protagonist, as he finds himself marooned on an unfamiliar island, in a strange and violent town called Rodnia.
The game is intended to be a “casual” RPG, to be played for 20-30 minutes at a time. However, unlike many other casual RPG games, the main emphasis of Misfortune is the plot. As the game progresses, acomplex story unfolds, including multiple plot-lines that intertwine together.
The entire game is hand drawn by a children’s book illustrator, which gives it a unique appearance.

I have only played it for a few minutes thus far, but my first impressions definitely leave me wanting to explore the game and it’s story even further.  The graphics and art are definitely professionally done while the music is ambient and subtle, but also suitable.  It’s played from a first person perspective and feels very much like the classic Bard’s Tale and Eye of the Beholder series of games, only it has a very unique story that doesn’t copy the standard D&D setting or script.

Here’s an amusing quote straight from the game’s website:

In ‘Misfortune’ you find yourself alone in a strange city, struggling to survive. Collect exotic items, combat mysterious monsters, save people in danger… Oh, you’ve already done all that before? Well, if this for some strange reason isn’t enough for you, you can also solve murder mysteries, unite lovers, get into a cursing match with a parrot and discover strange and unbelievable truths about the town of Rodnia.

Some interesting stuff to be sure.  Misfortune definitely has it’s own distinct look, feel, and style even though it shares mechanics and other similarities with classic first person RPG’s.  It isn’t very difficult to get into either and from what I’ve played so far it feels like it could be played by Casual gamers but also appreciated by Hardcore gamers for it’s classic first person RPG feel.

The game is still in the Beta stages while the developers at Loadingames work out the bugs and kinks.  You can still play the game though by signing-up and creating an account at the Misfortune website.

I’m looking forward to diving back into the game and exploring the game more deeply.  So hopefully I’ll have a full review of the game in the not-so-distant-future.

You can check out and play the current Beta version of Misfortune by going to the Loadingames website over here.

Cardinal Quest – Review

Cardinal Quest

developed by Ido Yehieli

Cardinal Quest website

Cardinal Quest is a lot like your classic Roguelike, only simplified.  You’ll explore the depths of a dark, dank dungeon, on a quest to destroy the evil Minotaur known as Asterion.  Along the way you’ll battle the many minions of this den while searching for more powerful weapons, armor, spells, and various other forms of loot.  It’s a formula that gamers who are familiar with Roguelikes will immediately recognize.  However, unlike most roguelikes, Cardinal Quest is made so that gamers can simply pick-up and play it.  You won’t find the same amount of depth as other games in the genre, but that’s alright because there is still an addictive quality to the exploration, combat, and treasure hunting, giving it a much more arcade like feel.

Their are only 3 classes to choose from including a Fighter, Thief, and Wizard.  Each class plays in a slightly different way.  All of the classes have a unique skill to start with, but throughout the quest each can find various skills or powers to aid them.  Some of these skills crossover no matter which class you’re playing.  Obviously, the Fighter is your strong, tank-like, character class who prefers to move headlong into battle.  The Thief is more adept at evasion and trickery, showing of their quick moves.  The Wizard is the master of magic utilizing spells taking enemies out at a distance rather than risk getting up close and personal.

The gameplay is very easy to get into.  Controlling your character can be done using either the mouse or keyboard.  Physical combat simply requires that you run into your enemy, while casting offensive spells is as simple as clicking on the spell of your choice from a list of spells you’ve obtained and then selecting an enemy.  Each class can also buff themselves up with some spells and skills, making them stronger, faster, and ultimately harder to kill.  Speaking of which, there are lots of different monsters to contend with and figuring out when to fight or flee is very important in any roguelike, this includes Cardinal Quest as well.

The graphics are intentionally retro and inspired by classic games.  They’re pixelated and blocky but they also have detail to them.  It all looks like something straight out of the NES or early PC library of RPG games.  Most roguelikes use Ascii characters for graphics, and while a roguelike doesn’t necessarily need good graphics to be enjoyable, it’s nice to have a colorful tileset with some nice detail and yet that familiar retro feel.

The music and sound are very good.  The audio is more modern and up to date than the graphics but it’s inclusion is very effective for the overall presentation of the game.  For the most part, the sounds are low-key but they add a fair bit of flavor to this classicly styled Roguelike.

Conclusion:
Cardinal Quest isn’t a deep adventure game, even when compared to most other roguelikes.  This also means it’s very easy to get into and less frustrating when your character does die.  It’s a game you can pick up and play in relatively short bursts of time.  The dungeon is randomized making it easy to enjoy multiple playthru’s.  It may not have that depth of a hardcore roguelike, but it does have the addictive quality of combat, loot drops, and exploration.  The version of Cardinal Quest that I played still didn’t have a highscore table or online leaderboards integrated into the game yet, which is a bit of a letdown.  Having leaderboards would definitely add to the replay value and overall addictiveness.  Hopefully we’ll see this feature added in the near future.  If you’re a fan of D&D, Roguelikes, and classic games like Gauntlet then I recommend you check out Cardinal Quest.  There’s a demo available and the full game is very affordable at $4.45 and well worth the value.

You can play the demo in your browser at the developers website or on Kongregate.  If you like what you see, then be sure to purchase the full game here.  It’s also available on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms!

New Release – Six Gun Saga by Cryptic Comet

Howdy Pardner!

If you’re like me and you love some good ol’fashioned turn based strategy occasionally mixed into your gaming, then you’ll be happy to know that Cryptic Comet has released their latest Turn Based Strategy Game titled Six Gun Saga.   It’s not your typical strategy game though, this little dawgie is set in the Wild West!  <Spittooooon!>  (I actually made the sound effect of a spittoon, with my mouth, while writing this – god help us all!)

Cryptic Comet is known for making Turn Based Strategy Games, such as their flagship game set in a post apocalyptic world titled Armageddon Empires, and the darker but uniquely satisfying Solium Infernum as well.  We’re talking about games that can keep you coming back for months, not just hours.  There is a tremendous amount of depth and atmosphere to each game, and Six Gun Saga seems to be just as intriguing.

Some features:

“Six Gun Saga is a turn based strategy game set in the Wild West.  Players assume the role of one of seven Bosses vying for control of a fictitious no-name town.

It’s All About The Choices…..

The Good Ones…..
Hire the meanest and toughest dudes to fight your battles.

The Bad Ones….
Keep you books balanced by cashing in cards that you would really like to use another way.

And The Ugly Ones…..
Send your posses out to claim Victory Points from story cards that seem hopeless without an ace (or two) in the hole.”

There’s a demo available for all you wood-be, womp’em, stomp’em, shit-kickin, cowboys (or cowgirls) out there!  I haven’t given the game a try yet but with a little luck I’ll be able to rustle up a review in the not so distant future.  Be sure to check out Six Gun Saga and the Cryptic Comet website by following this trail right here!

Be sure to check out my old review of Armageddon Empires if you enjoy Turn Based Strategy games.