bojangle's Jamestown (PC) review

A Fantastic Introduction To The Genre

I’m not normally one for side-scrolling shooters. I love the idea of them, the journey and the spectacle of it all, the bullets filling the screen, the lovingly crafted backdrops and all that you know? I’m just not very good at them, especially the so-called bullet hell sub genre. So why the hell did I buy Jamestown you ask? The music and the bloody lovely art style of course.

Thankfully I’m not completely terrible at it and I’ve seen (nearly) all the game has to offer, albeit on the lower difficulties. The game is incredibly forgiving for a newcomer, or just plain rubbish player, letting you play on the easiest setting and get to grips with it all, but the developers (Final Form Games) aren’t quite content with that. As you work through the stages they’ll force you to up the difficulty level, pushing you to gradually improve your game, and for this, I thank them. Now I can quite comfortably play through the game on Legendary difficulty, something which I know I wouldn’t have even attempted had I not been forced to.

So aside from shooting lots and lots and lots of enemies, you have your Vaunt ability, which when used gives you a shield which absorbs all bullets for a couple of seconds and also doubles both your damage and the points you earn. The Vaunt duration can be extended by collecting more gold from destroyed enemies, and this is where the score attack part of the game comes in. Do you end your current Vaunt early to ‘bank’ the points earned, or do you continue on despite the OH MY GOD SO MANY BULLETS moments?

Visually the game is stunning. Jamestown takes me back to the days of wonderful 16 bit pixel art. It’s just lovely to look at in motion and at times I wish you could just travel through the stages without those pesky enemies bothering you. The music too, is wonderful. Invigorating, epic and charming. Anyone who has played the game will tell you just how good that end of stage jingle is. I’m not ashamed to say I want it as my message tone.

 

So whilst the game only has five stages, you can also buy challenge stages with the currency you earn in-game which place you on a stage with a particular goal. It could be to score 150,000 points in 30 seconds, or merely survive for 15 seconds, which is tougher than it sounds. These add massive replay value to the game and for the average player, will be a huge challenge to actually complete. Below is a video of the challenge I’m rather stuck on. It ain’t too bad…until the last 20 seconds.

 
  
   
These challenge stages are painfully addictive. I’ve lost hours to them, sometimes dying with mere seconds to spare. The beauty in them is that it’s easy to retry once you die. No long loading times or going back into the main menu. A quick hit of retry and you’re back on that GOD DAMN LUGE CHALLENGE for the 314th time. Of course, each time you die you know it was due to a mistake on your behalf and that’s what makes Jamestown so wonderful to play, even when you burst into flames. You can feel yourself gradually becoming one with your ship of choice. Those bosses that once posed a massive threat to you are now nothing! Come on, throw all you’ve got at me, I can weave in and out of those waves of bullets no proble… BOLLOCKS! Dead. Retry. Edge ever closer to success and love every painful second of it. 
 

Jamestown also has local co-op for up to 4 players, which unfortunately I’ve yet to try so I won’t say much about it aside from that it’s a shame Jamestown doesn’t have online co-op, but who knows what a future update could bring?

In summary, Jamestown is not only a fantastic introduction to the bullet hell genre but it will also give veterans of the genre something to chew on once they unlock the higher difficulties. It doesn’t really offer anything ground breaking but what is on offer is a very solid shoot ‘em up with utterly gorgeous visuals, epic music and brilliant gameplay to boot.

Jamestown is available now on Steam, Direct2Drive and Gamersgate.

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