I have been excited to play Jamestown+ since it was first announced for PS4 about a year ago. Here’s proof. When it finally landed on my review queue, I was giddy at the prospect of playing through it with a couch full of fellow shmupers. I did indeed wind up playing through the game a few times, beating most of the levels on all but the hardest difficult (Judgment, which I’m currently working on). It is great; a much-needed role model for shmups on the PlayStation 4. It can be played solo, for sure, but for the best experience it’s highly recommended that you fill up the controller slots as much as possible.
Jamestown+ takes place on what I can only imagine is an alternate plane of existence. The year is 1619, and you play as British a man trying to clear his name of previous crimes. Over the course of a few days, you’ll rub elbows with some eerily familiar faces such as Virginia Dare and John Smith. As you trek through the game, you’ll defy adversity against subordinating Spanish martians on a quest to uproot a domineering monarch. Seriously. As well-penned as the story is and as delightfully old-timey as the cut-scene still-frames are, I had to take the story with a grain of salt. I had to because it takes place on Mars in 1619 and because I just shot down a planet full of bomb-chucking pirate crabs. This is a shmup, after all, a genre where storylines become laughable memes. Show me the bullets!
Bullets made to order is how I would describe Jamestown+‘s gameplay offering. There are five difficulty levels that range from Easy to Judgment. The first is friendly for even the shyest shmup player, while Judgment is a hardcore trip down bullet-hell lane. The game’s mechanics gel well with its difficulty. Your ship’s special attack regenerates over time (or has no ammunition whatsoever), and the vaunt system allows for novice and skilled players alike to make meaningful use of the currency (ducats) their collecting. In tense situations, when your vaunt meter is filled, you can pop vaunt to absorb shots for a short while. A more advanced player may still utilize vaunt for this initial perk, but will probably make more use of the 2X damage and score multiplier awarded by keeping your meter from completely emptying.
The base PS4 game has several ships that fit myriad gaming styles. Down the line, ships can be further customized in their specials and shot types. After some experimentation I settled on using the Lazar ship with its Drop special, which leaves a stationary lazer in place as long as you hold down the special fire button. My buddy loves using Ghost, and I’ve played with Crystal and Treason quite a lot. The ships’ variety adds a bit to the overall replay value of the game, but the bulk of content stretching is going to come from frequenting the shoppe. Points accumulated in levels can be used to unlock new ships, new game modes, new shot types, new challenge packs, and more. The challenges are wild at first, requiring a high level of skilled gameplay for a relatively short burst of time. Some challenges are unique and situational while others (fly through rings, score a set point amount) pop up from challenge pack to challenge pack. Just like the rest of the game, these challenges are best experienced cooperatively, with a friend (or stranger?) screaming bloody murder right next to you.
Jamestown+ gets intense. The trophy for beating the game is aptly dubbed “P(e)acemaker”; your heart will undoubtedly be racing in the final throes of the last boss. That being said, I like that it’s approachable for all skill levels. A common question I heard when friends came by to play the game was “is it only these levels?” referring to the fact that there are five base levels in the game. In actuality, there are seven stages counting the moons of Mars missions. I partially understand the seemingly low-content criticism of Jamestown+. However, the game is tough enough on higher difficulties (which require building up to) that there’s actually a decent sum of content here. There are 20 challenges in total that will take some time and effort to master. Lastly, single-stage, Gauntlet, and Super Gauntlet leaderboards exist for scorechasers to truly invest dozens of hours into this game. The only slight misstep I saw from the game came on higher difficulties with multiple players. The screen is miraculously easy to navigate with all of the chaos going on, but there are noticeable framerate drops when the action hit high points. In all, it’s a must-buy if you have at least one other person to play it with on a consistent basis. The game changes based on how many players are in at once, and I found the most enjoyable times were when I was playing with four players. See you in platty town!
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Fully orchestrated, glorious soundtrack
- Different difficulties = ease of access
- Much content for the price
What I Dislike:
- Not so riveting as a solo experience