Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony
The British Are Coming (to Mars)
We’re barely a few months old but I’m already sourcing our first contributor post! The hell of bullet shooting is not my forte, but I’ve always been interested in Jamestown, so sit back, relax, and make it a Suntory time with this entirely historically accurate shoot’ em up.
The familiarity of a world we know rinsed in speculation of a particular contingency we’d like to see carried out. Alternate history games are fantastic. We’ve met the apocalypse (Fallout, Wasteland), mad genius (Bioshock) and supernatural being (Return to Castle Wolfenstein). And then there’s Jamestown, a bullet hell shmup from three man crew Final Form. It’s 1619 and you’ve just escaped death. Looking to exonerate yourself, you high tail it to Mars on your modified Flash Gordon rocket cycle (like any good 90s action hero should – ed) – where the British happen have a colony. And it’s under attack by a Spanish-alien alliance.
Jamestown has the smell of retro baked 16-bit RPG goodness with that classic bullet hell crunchiness – and that is where the strength of this game lies. The intro, which opens with a retributive score while you stand at a cliff’s precipice looking onto the floating cities below really feels like Square’s 16-bit glory days. Don’t get me wrong though; the visuals are rich, animations fluid, aliens varied, the terrain battle worn and defiant to stand up to today’s HD filtered glasses. And the music is wonderfully epic to boot.
The story is told in few words, though that’s enough to contradict your own reason for embarking on this journey. Initially it is stated this is solely to clear your name, only for your character to later change his mind to that of solving a mystery in order to clear the slate for your crimes. Either way, they essentially both lead to the same thing – mowing down hundreds of aliens using a combination of two weapons, reflexes and a little luck.
As far as the playing experience goes, I haven’t felt a rush like this for a while. There really is something to be said of one-hit-death games. They can be frustrating, sure, and possibly lead to premature baldness, but there is a definite satisfying correlation between difficulty and jubilation to be found here. Activating the shield moments before being obliterated and using those precious few seconds to topple a boss are so darn satisfying. This isn’t the hardest scrolling shooter out there, but there is a nice progression of difficulties – I should mention, to progress into the later levels you need to redo previous maps on harder settings… If you have a few mates over, it gets even better. Although I haven’t tried yet, you can get up to three other mates blowing shit up with you on the same PC! Now I’m reminded of those Micro Machines battles using the one keyboard…
After every mission you get a cutscene and a little more exposition on you plight – a little unusual but welcome addition. If you preferred not to be disrupted, you can unlock a continuous (i.e. traditional) mode of non-stop rocket cycle action. But wait, there’s more! Bonus challenges await you if the main game isn’t enough (and being 5 minutes or so a level, that may be the case). There’s even DLC for this game though you will have to tell me what it’s like! And if the colonial steampunk story wasn’t enough, well you can unlock an alternate story mode which I’ll let you discover for yourself 😉
Jamestown is from the non-upgradable craft shmup camp. Instead, you initially start off with a single craft that has a bullet spray and the more powerful wave beam. Clearing levels, combos and generally shooting the shit out of everything on screen earns you ducats (coins) which you can use to purchase other craft with their own unique weapon combos. I enjoy the charge ship where you grow this blue tumor of a bowling ball and flatten everything in its path, a bit like Samus’s charge beam. I’m glad that these unlockable ships are not necessarily better, but potentially more suitable for certain maps or playing styles, lending more to strategy than having the biggest gun. You also have a vaunt meter that charges from the shrapnel those pesky aliens leave behind. (There are also what look look Sonic rings from Flickies Island). Using this has a twofold effect – a very brief (and welcome!) shield and increased damage and score multipliers.
This is a well crafted hold-your-head-up-high shooter that is essential among fans of the genre and those looking to get their feet wet in unfamiliar territory. It’s well balanced, beautiful and fun.