Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony originally hit PC back in 2011, and although it was a little short even for shoot ‘em up standards, it instantly became a hit due to its simple to grasp control scheme and flexible difficulty settings that allowed even the humblest of players to have a chance of making it to the end. Final Form Games is now making the jump to the Switch with Jamestown+, an updated version that adds more levels and ship types, keeping what made Jamestown so fun back when it was first put out.
Probably one of the only games of its type to feature an actual story, Jamestown+ goes for the quirk in just every way imaginable. It’s set in an alternate 17th century where the Spanish Inquisition has taken over space, and are now aiming to do the same to Mars. As an escaped convict from England named Raleigh, it’s up to you to discover what happened with a colony that vanished, all the while fighting the invading forces, piloting an assortment of ships along the way.
New to Jamestown+ are missions that take place on the moons of Mars, allowing you to play as a different character, an adventure willing taken prisoner who seems himself in the middle of war, as well as a handful of new ships that you can buy off the in-game store that takes gold you earn by beating missions. The levels themselves, as mentioned before, aren’t numerous and don’t take a lot of time to beat, usually lasting around ten minutes, all closing out with a boss fight. The real meat of the game, though, is replaying these on higher difficulties in order to unlock more upgrades, as well as new levels, incentivizing you to step out of your comfort zone and get better at playing.
Jamestown+ is pretty much a three-button game: you can configure them in any way you want, but it all boils down to a normal shot, a special attack, and the vaunt. Normal shot goes without saying, it’s the common attack that obviously varies from ship to ship that has infinite ammo and can be spammed to your heart’s content, while the special attack is much more limited and powerful, but not as difficult to come by in this like in other games. You’re pushed to using it often since due to how levels aren’t that long and it reloads very quickly. The vault is a sort of trump card that can get you out of a pinch by raising and expanding a shield that instantly stops bullets heading for you, also doubling your score multiplier and raising your damage for a little while.
The action is quite manageable at the lower difficulty modes, but things escalate as you ratchet up the challenge, which goes to show the amount of care that went into making the game balance scale depending on what mode you decide to play in. There’s still a fair amount of dodging that you’ll have to do even in the normal difficulty, the easiest you set the game to, as bullets come at you in patterns that you have to weave your way through in order for them not to connect with the tiny center of your ship where the pilot sits, your only weak point.
While completely playable in solo mode, the real fun of Jamestown+ is grabbing three friends and tackling it in co-op. Having to deal with all the possible combinations of ships your team can put to use is just one of the reasons of going through the trouble of physically ushering your pals onto your couch, since it’s local only multiplayer. Then again, punching and cursing isn’t as effective when your gold hog of a friend isn’t within arm’s length, right? I was able to try this mode out with a visiting friend, and even with only two players, Jamestown+ shows that this is the best way to play.
Sadly, there are a couple of technical issues with Jamestown+ at the time of this review. There’s some slowdown during gameplay that pops up from time to time irregardless of how much action is going on screen, which is weird to see in a game as old as this, but the worst issue I’ve run into is a nearly complete lack of sound effects for your ship’s weapons. During the opening sections of levels, it’s possible to hear a tiny, very slow bit of sound from your weapons, but as soon as you start fighting, the impact of your bullets and explosions end up being the only real sound effects you get to hear. I assume this has to do with audio mixing, which along with the slowdown will hopefully be patched soon. Still, even with these issues, the game is completely playable as is.
Jamestown was one within the first wave of indie games back in 2011, and it made beautiful use of the popular pixel art style that so many titles do today. It looks razor sharp on HD displays as well as in portable mode. There are options to play with an old-timey filter and a couple of different screen ratios, but I’d recommend keeping everything strictly off. Jamestown+ is solid pickup on the Switch, and once those technical issues are patched, there won’t be any reason not to give this gem a shot.
Jamestown+ will be out on the Switch and PC on December 12th. Its added features will be making their way to the previously released PlayStation 4 via a free update.