Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony is a fun, one to four player simultaneous, vertically scrolling bullet hail shoot’em up that brings a modern take to an old genre. It twists the familiar space shooter into a new frontier classic. You don’t pilot a spaceship, instead you’re in what looks like a futuristic flight chair. Don’t get deceived, this chair packs a punch, its got standard lasers, a special beam and shields. Thankfully, you can hold the button down for a stream of lasers. This is a game of fun, challenge and points, not wearing you out.
The game has more than beautiful visuals, its got gorgeous gameplay mechanics that get explained in the tutorial. You collect gold nuts to fill up a shield meter, then when its full, you can use the shield to briefly block bullets. When that shield goes away, your red projectiles turn purple and you now have 50% higher damage and you get double your score. Aggression gets rewarded, because your meter starts to drain pretty quick unless you get more “gold.” This gold also doubles as the in game currency.
With this currency you can buy many things including three new ships, each with different weapons. Your starter chair’s standard beam is a nice wide spread to make things easy and accessible, you’ll feel powerful right off the bat. You also have a strong forward beam to rip through enemies. There’s a subtlety to it though, you’ll go slightly slower and I have no problem with that.
From there you can buy a more complex chair that has a fat wave of a forward beam, but instead of having a more powerful weapon, holding the button lets you rotate the angle of the beam. So you can have the beam shoot in 360 degrees all while still having a meager front gun. The third ship has a double front laser, but it has a giant sphere that charges between your power shots. When you launch the projectile it moves slow, but in a way that’s good, because that delay gives me time to get away while still avoiding projectiles. The fourth chair is a stream of a single laser, but your power attack detonates every beam. I give them credit for such creativity, but I couldn’t find much of a use for it. Its designed to shoot next to the enemy, then detonate it so you get the most damage.
Jamestown an accessible game, because the first three levels let you get your feet wet with a normal (easiest) difficulty. Its no pushover though, because to get to the fourth level, you’ll need to complete the first three on difficult. Then to get into the fifth, you’ll need to complete all four of the previous levels on legendary difficulty. No bullet hail shooter would be complete without two more difficulties above that. To some that may make it a grind having to replay levels, but I’d rather play the same levels twice on a harder difficulty than play the hardest difficulty right off the bat. That just scares people away.
Since you’re flying a chair, bullets only kill you when you the pilot get hit. Every death respawns you. Every continue brings up an arcade style countdown and when you run out of continues, you’ll need to restart the level. This all makes the game forgiving, friendly and fun. It wants you to play it. It wants you to complete it and most of all it wants you to have fun. It rewards you with the gold you’ve collected in a level whether you complete it or die. You’re always rewarded.
After each level, you get dumped back to the game’s menu. On this menu you can select any unlocked level, visit the game’s shop or bonus challenge levels. I do feel it breaks up the action, but there’s a gauntlet mode that lets you play the entire five level game start to finish with limited continues. At the start of the game, you’re instantly given enough gold to purchase gauntlet mode. They know how unconventional a sort of hub menu is for a game like this, so they offer the traditional route.
One thing that I didn’t like on all menus was having a mouse pointer. Even using a 360 controller, you still have to use it as a mouse cursor. I suppose this was because there’s so much going on the game’s main menu with being able to select a locale on the world map to enter a level. While it was precise, I feel it was inefficient.
The game is obviously a retro 90s style of gorgeous. I can tell the amount of love that got poured into this game with the detail in it. The levels are all completely different, and every enemy is too. You won’t find the same enemies level to level, or even reskins. They’re all different, with different habits. There’s such a wide variety of enemies on a single level, let alone in all five. You’ve got agile ships, big ships, ground crawlers, wall turrets that shoot out horizontally and so much more. More importantly is these enemies are fun to destroy. They explode and it just feels good to laser through them. I think its one of the core elements needed to make a shoot’em up fun.
The bosses are massive, almost screen filling with multiple patterns and parts. The parts are even marked on the meters at the top of the screen. You’ll know this boss has three or five segments. They get more difficult with each stage. These bosses turn the game into a pattern based bullet hail. Windmills of bullets, different patterns, they all fill the screen, but the game is so pixel perfect you can dodge them without exact precision. Every boss is different, some you need to disable sections or pods. Others you’ll need to damage their projectiles to even hurt them. When they open up to a moment of vulnerability, its on then. Just power blast your way into them and its just so satisfying to destroy a boss with screen filling explosions.
Destroying a section of the boss or even big enemies destroy their projectiles. So there’s a risk reward. Stay there with a bullet coming at you knowing you can blast off that segment or do you dodge? Its a good risk and reward there.
The fifth level changes the mold of each level. There are moving walls that make things difficult. Luckily the walls don’t hurt you unless they have spikes or they crush you. It was a nice touch that kept it interesting at the end.
After each level, you’re greeted with a breakdown of your score along with your rank. You also get to see the story to progress, and while I can say that the artwork is beautiful for the story, I didn’t find myself reading any of it. It can be Shakespeare, but I just wanted to get back to the action. You can skip the story or even buy a lighthearted story from the shoppe.
I can’t forget the music though, its grandiose in a 90s era sort of way. Its another fantastic thing that stands up about the game. No offense to Jamestown, but it was from a game like Final Fantasy from the 90s, people would herald it as one of the best soundtracks. There’s a variety of feels to each song, everything from a frontier wild west sort of fun song, to things that would sound at home in a Predator of Aliens game from the 90s.
For those that like a challenge, there are five levels of difficulty and a hardcore mode without auto-respawn that you can buy from the store. There are more than a dozen challenging bonus maps. Everything from survive X amount seconds to score Y amount of points in X seconds. While I can survive the most crazy bullet bomb explosions, I’m not good enough to score big points. You’ve also got leader boards to keep you in game.
If you’re a bullet hail or shooter fan this is a must own. The 90s style and fun combat make it entertaining for multiple play throughs. Well worth $10 for the 2 hours.