RETRO SHOOTER MAYHEM!
Fans of retro shoot-em-ups, or “SHMUPS” rejoice! The 2011 PC hit Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony has made its way onto the PlayStation 4 in the form of a bigger and better Jamestown+.
The developers at Final Front Games always thought Jamestown was a console game at heart, and that passion has led to this re-release; one that features more levels, more ships, gameplay enhancements and a fully re-designed interface. Jamestown+ is most certainly the definitive version, and console SHMUP fans won’t want to miss it.
The gameplay in Jamestown+ is very simplistic and focuses on a few basic mechanics. It’s a top-down shooter where you use the left analog stick to move your ship around, primarily attempting to dodge enemy bullets while firing your weapons back at them. You have three abilities: your main gun, a special attack, and vaunt. The main and special attacks change depending on what ship you use. The vaunt ability relies on you charging a meter by collecting parts that some defeated enemies drop. When used, vaunt blocks incoming enemy bullets for a brief period of time, makes your attacks stronger, and gives you a score bonus.
There are no power-ups, bonus lives or anything of the sort. Nine hits will send you to the game over screen. While seemingly simple, the gameplay is frantic, fast-paced, and very challenging. Ship movement feels silky smooth, and most abilities are fun to use. The variations in the ships’ attacks add a lot of depth to the game as they all feel different and change the way you have to play to be successful. Some ships are even customizable, which adds an even deeper level of play. It does seem like some ships are weaker than others, though advanced players may find they have benefits nonetheless.
The game doesn’t feature a ton of levels, only seven total. The levels are also rather short, under five minutes each. This actually works in the game’s favor though, as it promotes replaying of the levels on different difficulties, and trying for high scores on the leaderboards. There are also other gameplay modes to change things up. The Gauntlet mode allows you to play all of the levels in succession, and Challenge mode gives you unique, shorter levels with specific goals. You earn in-game currency as you play, the better you do the more you can expect to earn. You use this currency to buy things in the store, including additional gameplay modifications, new ships, abilities, and more.
A big draw to Jamestown+ is its couch co-op. You can play with up to 4 players, resulting in some crazy and chaotic gameplay. There is no online play, unfortunately. Matchmaking is something I would have loved to see added. You can make use of the PS4’s SharePlay feature to play with a friend, but this isn’t the suggested method of course. This is a game I can see groups of friends really getting into though, so if you’re a big fan of couch co-op action, then I’d definitely recommend you check it out.
Jamestown+ has a very retro look and feel. The pixel art style works well for the game, though some may find it dated. The menus are very well crafted, and the option to navigate with a free-moving cursor was a welcome addition. The soundtrack is top notch as well, adding to the fast-paced feel of the gameplay and working to get your heart pumping during the intense “edge of your seat” moments. The story is basically filler to tie the levels together, but that is never a big focus in this style of game anyway.
A warning I will give to players is that Jamestown+ is very challenging, and not in an optional sort of way. After a few levels you are forced to increase the difficulty or you can’t progress, and this could be very frustrating to novices of the SHMUP genre. Due to this I can’t recommend the game to everyone, though having skilled friends to play with can definitely help.
The Verdict: 8.0 out of 10
Jamestown+ is an excellent shoot-em-up, one that fans of the genre should love. It’s challenging, has great replayability, and executes very well on its simple gameplay concept. The ships are varied, boss fights unique, and the couch co-op action is a lot of fun. The game isn’t for everyone though. Its mandatory difficulty spikes may overwhelm some players. Overall, the game is right up there with the best of its kind on console and is well worth the asking price!
For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.
Jamestown+ was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a developer-supplied copy of the game. All screenshots and video, aside from the featured image, were captured by Ryan Amirault directly from a PS4.