A Modern PC Shmup
As a long time fan of PC games, shoot 'em ups, and indie games, this game was made for me. I'm not everyone; I'm willing to practice a level over and over, and I'm used to finding the secrets in shmups. I find all the little tricks, all the secrets that most people who play the game will never find, etc. But I'm not writing a review for me, because I already love this damn game. I'm writing it for you!
Most fans of bullet hell games will have heard of Touhou, games which are boring and laughably easy on their easiest settings, and stupidly difficult on their most difficult. Jamestown is a bullet hell game for normal people; the main structure of the game is designed to be very hard, but you will progress through to the end even as a normal player. You get nine lives per level, unless you're playing the special "gauntlet mode," where you get a cat's nine lives for the entire games' worth of stages. It's also got a charming and short story; for a game with only five stages total, I didn't expect any sort of epic retelling of the next greatest story ever, and it's a cool take on alternate colonial times.
The gameplay is very crisp and responsive and contains some really interesting mechanics. Unlike other shooters, there is no screen-clearing bomb, and there are no charge shots (the two common ones people may know from Raiden or Viper Phase One). Instead, there are two modes of fire, and a "vaunt meter" which you build and drain to make yourself invulnerable to bullets. You'll pick from up to four ships (seven with the DLC) to fly in the game, each with their own benefits and deficits. Also, I never saw any lag, a problem that has sometimes crippled other shmups.
The art is amazing, although if you aren't a fan of pixels, you may disagree. It's clear that this game was meant to live in an arcade cabinet somewhere in a past life; everything from the text, the art, the bullets, it's all reminiscent of a fantastic arcade shooter from the yesteryear. It is that retro-shmup vibe, resurrected for a modern audience. I also really like the music and sounds, although I don't know exactly how it stands out. One moment that stood out for me in the music was when it lines up with a stage, actually doing a "story reveal" in the middle of a level.
The last amazing part about Jamestown is the local co-op play (no online, lag sux). Of course, most 1CCers or score-attackers won't be bringing their buddies along, but at least they can play alongside you when you aren't trying to perfect the stages. The levels are very wide, with more than enough space for four characters on it at a time. In other games, other players feel like they are getting in the way, attacking enemies you are already attacking, or filling the screen with extra bullets. In Jamestown, there is less getting in the way and more contributing to progressing to the end of the level.
One word on playing Co-op on a PC. It uses an awesome way to detect any device; when you want to add new players, you simply hold down a button on the controller you want to use. That means any USB device that has some way of measuring axes (mouse, joystick, arcade stick, keyboard) can be used, and any number of them as well. When I played with four people, I had a mouse, a keyboard, a 360 controller, and an arcade stick being used.
Overall, this is one of my new favorite shoot 'em ups. I have a select few that get installed anywhere that they'll run; My old one was CRS88, but Jamestown is its new replacement. It is just a complete package of everything that makes my retro shoot 'em up soul tingle, and even if you aren't a fan of the genre, it will likely be this game that turns you into one. Give it a try!