Giant Bomb Review

30 Comments

Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony Review

4
  • PC

Striking the proper balance between nostalgic and new, Jamestown is a real treat for classic shooter fans.

When creating a game meant to pay tribute to a particular type of beloved game genre, the all-important line that divides "enjoyable nostalgia piece" and "the same crap you've already played a hundred times before" is one too often crossed. Many times a developer will simply bank on nostalgia carrying a game entirely, as if simply making a thing like the thing people know is all you need to make a game fun. Fun fact: it isn't.

Jamestown is like a bizarre cross between The New World, Total Recall, and Ikaruga.

Final Form Games seems deeply aware of this narrow line, and manages to stay on the right side of it all throughout Jamestown, a loving homage to the top-down scrolling shooters of olden-day arcades. Final Form infuse Jamestown with precisely the right mix of nostalgic good feelings and original mechanics to make it stand out as far more than just another genre also-ran.

Much of Jamestown's immediate appeal comes from its setting. Set on 17th-century Mars--don't ask questions, just go with it--you play as Raleigh, a condemned criminal who travels to the British colony of Roanoke...on Mars. There, you find a world ravaged by war between the Red Coats and a terrifying army of futuristic ships and tentacled aliens controlled by an insidious Spanish Conquistador.

This is all told through a mix of pixelated cutscenes and surprisingly detailed background art. Jamestown employs a legitimately attractive 2D art style, full of cool-looking sprites and explosive effects that rival some of the old arcade greats. More to the point though, it invokes the bizarre storyline without getting too wordy about it. The few cutscenes there are move quickly to get you into the action, but the in-game graphics do a fine job of maintaining the peculiar hodgepodge of 17th-century futurism. From the game's opening moments, you're already seeing Red Coat soldiers firing muskets at laser-firing ships and alien grotesqueries. It's bananas, but in the best way possible.

Where Jamestown really shines is in its gameplay. On the surface, the game offers up a fairly standard style of top-down shooting, with a variety of ship types that each come with different weaponry. Enemies deliver the typical brand of bullet hell challenge as well, barfing difficult-to-dodge dots at you in varying quantities.

However, there's a great deal more depth here than meets the initial eye, thanks largely to the cleverly designed "vaunt" system. As you defeat enemies, you collect gold trinkets from their exploded wreckage, which in turn fills up your vaunt meter. Once it's filled, the vaunt mechanic does a number of things: it gives off a temporary bullet shield that turns you momentarily invincible, raises the power of your weaponry by a factor of two, and also doubles the score for each defeated enemy. As the meter drains, you can keep it going by collecting more gold, or even terminate it early to generate a second temporary invincibility shield.

They don't call it 'bullet hell' for nothin'.

This adds quite a bit of complexity to what is otherwise a reasonably straightforward shooter, especially once you start playing in co-op. Up to four players can jump in at once, and in co-op, the vaunt system uses a bit of a Rock Band-inspired stacking system, where each player that activates their vaunt stacks the scoring one multiplier higher. It's crazy fun, though it is somewhat limited by the lack of online play. Still, if you've got a few friends and a few gamepads handy, you'll have a blast.

Jamestown is also somewhat limited in content. Like the classics of the arcade, there are only a handful of levels to play through. However, each level features five different difficulty levels, and some of the later levels can only be unlocked after defeating earlier levels on higher settings. It's a game that encourages multiple playthroughs for both progression and higher scores, not to mention currency with which to purchase additional content, like alternate play modes and ships.

While the experience is still somewhat fleeting, the quality of Jamestown's content, coupled with its reasonable $10 price tag on Steam, make it an easy recommendation for any PC-owning shooter fan. Its wild premise is surprisingly well-realized, and its shooting is top-notch. Put simply, it is a game that stacks up as well, if not better than many of the classics it's so clearly inspired by.

Alex Navarro on Google+
30 Comments
Posted by GodsMistakeXx

Coulda been an awesome JRPG... 

Posted by BulletproofMonk

Really don't care for bullet hell games, but everything else about this game is cool.

Posted by bybeach

I guess the spanish were the go to ruskies of the time

Posted by zitosilva

Ah, cool. I didn't get the impression from the Quick Look that it was worth going after it. But after reading this I'll give it some more thought, specially if I can find people to play it with.

Posted by SpudBug

this game is awesome, i've been playing it all day since the steam sale. Great game.

Posted by Oscar__Explosion

Totally didn't expect a giantbomb review of Jamestown, but it really is a great game and for 10 dollars everyone who enjoys these types of games should definitively get it!

Posted by Xealot42

Nice I wasn't expecting a full review of this. I'm thinking about picking this up in the Steam sale.

Posted by Oni

I bought this after the QL, it's a really good shmup, especially if you're new to the genre. Highly recommended!

Posted by SomeJerk

It's an amazing blend of old school and new school, I can guarantee it because I've owned arcade shooters from 1983 to 2002. Raiden Fighters for the 360 has to be mentioned if any console owner wants their fix of old-new era clashing, because they did it wonderfully. There are some patterns mostly with bosses in those as well as scoring systems, however these are scoring systems that don't take too much attention from the rest of the game, nor does any of these wonderful games from my fave shoot em'up developer Seibu Kaihatsu star pre-teen girls in skimpy outfits. Cave shmups are for jerks.

5/5

Posted by tourgen

unexpected and pretty awesome that this game gets a review!

Posted by Th3_James

Bought it on the steam sale. I have enjoyed it so far.

Posted by Santa_8aby

$6.69 on Steam currently.

Posted by Xpgamer7

Really didn't expect a review, but it's nice to see some depth in the genre.

Posted by BeachThunder

Alright, alright; I'll pick it up if/when it's a daily deal on Steam :o

Posted by geirr

This is one of my favourite games of the year and I don't even like shoot 'em ups, correction, didn't like! Now I'm looking all over for them!

Posted by BeachThunder
@pepsimaxofborg said:

This is one of my favourite games of the year and I don't even like shoot 'em ups, correction, didn't like! Now I'm looking all over for them!

Tyrianis amazing (and it's free too).
Posted by emem

Great game, I hope they get some money out of it.

Posted by The_Hiro_Abides

It's definitely worth the purchase. I picked it up after the Quicklook and haven't regretted it since.

Though, good review it covers everything relevant. And mentions that this game is awesome!

Edited by rDr4g0n

I'm surprised the review fails to mention the bonus levels. They aren't really levels so much as challenges, but they have that super meat boy quality to them, in that you can fail the same 20 seconds over and over and still be having fun. I generally don't play games for challenges, and get bored if I die too often, but this one keeps me hooked. As an anti-game-replayer, I am replaying frequently.  
 
also, when I close my eyes, I see bullet patterns...

Posted by Nomin

The masses say 'shoot 'em ups' 
The most interesting man in the world says 'SHMUPS'
Posted by natetodamax

This doesn't seem like a game I would play, but I love the premise. It seems insane!

Online
Posted by DirtyData

Thanks to Alex and Giantbomb for doing this review! Great game that is getting overlooked. You gents are the best!

Posted by critThreat

VERY NICE

Posted by sirdesmond

I've been having tons of fun with this game and I think this review hits all the right notes on it. While I was a bit worried at first that the game would be too easy, I'm not playing on Divine (the second to last difficulty) and having an impossible time completing some of the levels so the complexity and depth I was looking for is definetly there. Also, the vault system is great and really where most of the depth comes from.

Posted by dropabombonit

Good review, I will check this out

Posted by Sammann31415

As a shmup fan without a current-gen iPhone/Pad or a 360, this game is a godsend.  Got it on sale through Steam, loving it!  Definitely chase this one down over Deathsmiles IIx.

Posted by zombie2011

Bought this yesterday, it's pretty awesome. I don't play many games like this so everything this game does is pretty new to me. 

Posted by chu52

This game is a muthafuckah but I still am getting a kick out of it. Also steam sales on an already cheap game, effin aye yea!

Posted by nemt

GET YOUR ASS TO MARS

Posted by rawilliam

I loved the Quick Look of this game! Think I´ll try it out :)