Review – Jamestown+ (Switch)

What should you expect from a game called Jamestown? Maybe a horror set in a colonial village? A British colonization simulator? Something closely related to the Pirates of the Caribbean? What about a sci-fi shooter set in an alternate version of the 17th century, in which you have you defend the British colonies on Mars from a coalition assembled by the native Martians and the Spanish? Because that’s exactly what I got from Jamestown+, believe it or not.

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Look at these adorable Martian British soldiers fighting for king and planet!

Jamestown+ takes inspiration from the real-life Jamestown in Virginia, as well as the overall history of the early colonization attempts on the United States, in order to craft something extremely trippy. This mix between Elizabethian-era colonization figures and Mars is something I’ve never seen before. Unlike most bullet-hell shooters out there, Jamestown+ actually puts a big emphasis on storytelling, with a lot of (static) cutscenes played before and after each mission.

Gameplay-wise, Jamestown+ plays and feels like some more recent indie shooters like Pawarumi and RXN Raijin. Even though this game technically predates them by a handful of years, being first released for PC in 2011. This is a vertically-scrolling shoot ’em up, but set in a horizontal aspect ratio. Just like those other two games, the overall frantic speed of the genre for a slightly more methodical gameplay style, even though you’re still avoiding eleven bagillion bullets at any given time.

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Those explosion effects are sooooooo satisfying.

This game is all about avoiding attacks and using your energy-absorbing shield in order to escape from risky situations. You do this while holding down your main shooting button and eventually using your secondary weapon to dish out additional damage. Keep on shooting and avoid being shot, then defeat a multi-stage boss at the end of each level. In terms of gameplay, Jamestown+ does not reinvent the wheel, but it gets the job done.

What really impresses me about Jamestown+ is the game’s overall artistic department. This is one good-looking game, with excellent Neo Geo-esque visuals, a ton of particle effects, explosions, animations, and a great framerate. It’s hard to pay attention to the backgrounds of these bullet-hell shooters, but considering how Jamestown+ plays at a slower pace, you can definitely notice how detailed its environments are. Just as an example, its first level showcases a battle between the British and the invader ground troops in the background, all while you’re destroying tons of alien ships on the foreground.

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You’ll dodge a lot of bullets.

Another thing that impressed me about this game is its soundtrack. With the exception of Ikaruga, most bullet-hell shooters don’t feature impressive soundtrack. Most of the time you’re barely able to listen to them with all the explosion effects happening onscreen, but Jamestown+ steals the show with a brief but great collection of tunes that are heavily influenced by pirate-esque music, such as the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack.

With that being said, Jamestown+ features one serious flaw: it’s repetitive. I don’t mean it in the way that this is a bullet-hell shooter so you’re just constantly on cruise control, destroying everything in sight, but in the way that it forces you to constantly replay levels. You’ll have to replay multiple levels in order to get enough money to buy new ships and upgrades, as the prices are ridiculously steep, but also retry old levels in new difficulties in order to further progress with its story. This is already a short game, so only letting a player to play three levels on the normal difficulty, locking behind ship upgrades and side missions on harder modes, makes Jamestown+ feel completely uninviting.

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Peekaboo!

If you don’t mind its grindy nature and botched progression system, then I can totally recommend Jamestown+ for its unique setting and production values. It’s not as fast-paced as other shooters, but it knows how to please you by making every single blast you shoot feel powerful and destructive. It also has some great boss battles and a surprisingly decent story, something you don’t see in most bullet-hell shooters out there. Heck, you’re lucky if they even add a plot to begin with…

 

Graphics: 8.5

Jamestown+ goes for a 16 bit-esque art style, with very detailed backgrounds, lots of particles onscreen, impressive animations, and a rock-solid framerate.

Gameplay: 8.0

Your typical vertical-scrolling bullet-hell controls, with a huge emphasis on your energy absorbing shield. It’s nowhere near as fast-paced as other games of the genre, but it’s still pretty decent overall.

Sound: 8.0

A brief but very impressive collection of tunes that perfectly mix Pirates of the Caribbean-esque melodies with some sci-fi elements in order to craft something unique.

Fun Factor: 7.0

It’s slower than most bullet-hell shooters, but it’s still very entertaining. It also features a surprisingly decent story, which is rare for a shooter like this. With that being said, Jamestown+ features a very botched progression system, locking entire portions of the game behind higher difficulty levels.

Final Verdict: 7.5

Jamestown+ is available now on PS4, PC and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Jamestown+ was provided by the publisher.