Monday, 2 January 2012


Developer/Publisher: Final Form Games
Released: June 8 2011

Jamestown is a hardcore old-school top-down shoot-em-up set during the 1600's on Mars, where a British colony is under attack by combined Spanish and Martian forces. What?! Yeah, that's awesome.

Jamestown received very positive reviews with an average score in the low eighties. Critics were surprised at the level of depth in gameplay, and also praised the art style and soundtrack. Jamestown was selected as one of the year's top indie games at PAX Prime 2011. The only real negative point cited was that the game is a little short.

One DLC pack exists: Gunpowder, Treason, & Plot, which adds four new ships to the existing roster of 4, one of which is piloted by Guy Fawkes himself.

As a warning: Jamestown certainly lives up to its hype of hardcore old-school shooter. It's hard. On the plus side, not only do the 6 levels gradually scale up in difficulty, but there's also a plethora of difficulty settings for each level. Later levels require that you beat all previous levels on a certain minimum difficulty, which rises as you progress. That's good in that you can gradually train your skills up, but it's a little frustrating as well in that I can't just play all the levels in order. Once I unlock a level, I have to go back and unlock it again by playing previous levels on a higher difficulty. Most people won't be able to just play straight through on the highest difficulty in one go -- you need to learn the quirks and abilities of your ship and the enemies before you can make real progress.

The difficulty of the game might turn some people off, so make sure you're aware of the difficulty before you buy the game.

The criticism of lack of content is both valid and invalid for a couple of reasons. On the one hand, it is a little frustrating that the story mode is only 6 levels which you're forced to repeat a few times before you can progress. I get that. On the other hand, there are 20 challenge levels and four ships (eight with DLC) to master, and of course there are harder difficulties to unlock. I would have liked to see more story missions and a more thorough exploration of the awesome premise, but I don't really think it's fair to say that the game is lacking in content overall, especially considering its low price.

The game's music is energetic and fun. There are hints of western influence (as in cowboy movies) that help the frontier atmosphere.

The four ship types are all very different from each other, which provides an interesting point of choice and comparison between players. There are two simple ships and two advanced ships, with the advanced ones obviously being harder to master. I played with just the simple beam ship most of the way through.

The 20 challenge levels provide a neat break from the long campaign levels, with specific objectives per map. For example, there's survive 30 seconds, fly through all the rings, and other objectives that get really challenging.

One of the most interesting aspects of Jamestown is local 4-player co-op. You'll need a few extra mice or keyboards to go full 4-player, but the controls are simple so it's not a hassle to get 4 players together. I didn't try out the multiplayer, but I'm sure it's extremely chaotic with all the firing effects and madness going on.

Jamestown is $10 on Steam, and its DLC is $3. It's currently available as part of Steam's Awesome Indie bundle, which includes a pile of other indie games. If you're not really into old-school games, you might find Jamestown frustratingly difficult. But if you are a fan of hardcore arcade-style shooters, you'll enjoy Jamestown.

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