Review: Jamestown+ (PS4)

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Title: Jamestown+
Format: PlayStation Network Download (297 MB)
Release Date: March 17, 2015
Publisher: Final Form LLC
Developer: Final Form LLC
Original MSRP: $11.99
ESRB Rating: E10+
Jamestown+ is also available on PC.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was purchased by the reviewer.
PS Nation Review Policy

Back in 2011 developer Final Form introduced us to Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony, an alternate history where Britain and Spain battled it out to colonize the new world – Mars. Now, four years later and with a bunch of upgrades to the game, Jamestown+ breaks out on the PlayStation 4 and introduces a fun shmup (shoot ’em up) that most console players might not have even heard of.

I could bore you with a description of the story found within Jamestown+. I could tell you of the main character, Sir Walter Raleigh. I could tell you about the different real-life historical people you’ll run into, or even the nifty 16-bit cut-scenes. Yet none of that really even matters. The single, shining element of Jamestown+ is the gameplay. I mean, come one, what would you expect from a shmup.

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Gameplay:
I have played a handful of shmups throughout my life and have come to expect certain things from them, mainly a variety of fascinating and outlandishly-awesome weapons. Jamestown+ forgoes the in-battle weapon upgrades and instead offers different starting ships that provide quite different firing mechanics. Each one is built to better take down enemies of a certain level, but with your increase of mastery with a particular ship, each one works very well throughout the whole game.

Each ship comes with two unique firing options, one that deals slightly less damage but is faster and one that deals more damage but hinders your movement. While there are specific ships that perform better in each level, you can do very well just finding your perfect ship. Later in the game you’re even able to customize a ship to meet more of your own playstyle. On top of the two attacking modes, each ship has a power-up mechanic called “vaunt” that can be activated once you have killed a specific amount of enemies. Once your vaunt meter is filled, with the press of a button you will gain a shield that absorbs shots for a few seconds and both of your weapons deal 2X damage.

… Jamestown+ gets HARD at the higher levels …
Though there is an overall story with an objective, the true goal in the game is to achieve a five-star rating on each level. Everything you do throughout a level, such as killing enemies, picking up the gold coins they drop, beating the level in a short period of time, not losing a life, contributes to your total score for that level. Activating your vaunt ability will even increase the amount of points you earn for your actions throughout the level, so while initially you’ll rely on the shield to protect you from dying, as your skill increases you’ll look to use it in more advantageous spots.

As your skill increases you’ll be inclined to increase to one of the higher levels of difficulty, but be warned… Jamestown+ gets HARD at the higher levels. As the difficulty gets increased, it becomes apparent very quickly that this game was initially created for a mouse and keyboard. When you crank the difficulty up to the highest, Jamestown+ becomes one of, if not THE hardest shmup I have ever experienced. Thankfully though Final Form has created a superb control scheme that is tight and responsive, giving you the tools to succeed. It’s up to you though to be quick enough to keep up.

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Visuals:
Jamestown+ looks fantastic. Created in a beautifully made 16-bit artstyle, the game faithfully resembles many of the original shmup games of the past.

From the fields of a fledgling farm town, to an industrial factory, to the swamplands, the game features a good breadth of diversity in level design. Each one looks unique unto itself and each provides a staggering amount of detail not found in many other shmups of this style.

While the game does use the 16-bit artstyle throughout, it is nice to see that the developers have subtly added in a little extra here and there to truly make it stand out from the standard 90’s style used by many games today.

… a fantastic old-school shmup …
Audio:
The sole audio throughout the entirety of the game is the fantastic background music. Combine the horn and string sections of a symphony with the occasional beat of drums and bass and add in the old-school gaming beeps and boops and you have a great background track that the action and killing of the game lays on top of.

Online/Multiplayer:
Jamestown+ offers a multiplayer mode in the form of up to four-player offline co-op. Adding three additional players to the screen makes for some of the best fun with a shmup I have had in a long time. Surprisingly though, the game doesn’t really get easier the more people you have in a level. The inclusion of more people, at times, makes the game far more difficult but yet, it is so much fun.

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Conclusion:
In conclusion, Jamestown+ is a fantastic old-school shmup that provides a steep level of challenge and fun. With the inclusion of challenges and multiple ships to unlock, the game will keep you coming back for more. While the single player experience is a blast from start to finish, having up to three friends jump in and contribute to the killing and exploding of your enemy is just so dang enjoyable.

Score:
8.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Kyle Jessee

Kyle Jessee

Your lone Kentucky writer on staff. Loves the Big Blue Nation, rock music, and Resistance 2 (the best in the series).

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