Sunday, February 26, 2012

REVIEW- Jamestown

We've always played a lot of cooperative games. In particular, Shoofle and I make it our goal to play as many co-op games together as we can find, and in particular we've played pretty much every single (modern-ish) shooter with local co-op that you can name. However, while we should eventually talk about what makes a good cooperative shooter and all, the games Shoofle and I play together tend to only ever have two player local co-op. What I want to talk about today (and for some of our next few posts) are games that support more than two player local co-op (typically up to four), and that we've found are vastly improved by the addition of more players. So without further ado, let's talk about Jamestown!
Jamestown is set in an alternate history, where the colonization of the New World occurred on Mars, rather than in the Americas. The story follows Sir Walter Raleigh fighting off Spanish conquistadors and uncovering dark secrets behind the disappearance of Roanoke colony. Honestly, we didn't pay much attention to the story while playing the game, choosing to skip ahead to the gameplay sections. There is also a 'farce' version of the story that can be unlocked, which is suitably comical (but we ended up skipping past that too).

At its core, Jamestown is a bullet hell. There are a variety of ships to pick from, and each ship has a standard attack and a special attack (there is no limit on the use of the special, though it is typically more situational), which varies widely in ease of use and strategic applications. For example, the most basic ship is the Beam, which has a spread shot as its standard attack, and a movement reducing powerful beam as its special attack, while one of the more complex ships is the Bomber, which shoots projectiles straight forwards for its standard attack, and detonates all on-screen projectiles with its special attack. There are four ships with the base game (Beam, Charge, Bomber, Gunner), and then another three ships included with the DLC pack (Treason, Powder, and Ghost), providing plenty of variety for players to fiddle with.
In addition to the standard and special attacks, each ship can also vaunt when enough coins are collected from fallen enemies. Vaunting creates a temporary shield that absorbs all enemy bullets, and grants players a score multiplier, making it critical to both survival and attaining the highest scores. Your character in Jamestown only dies if the very center of the ship is hit by an enemy projectile, but with four players and on the higher difficulties (playing on higher difficulty levels is required to access the later levels) it becomes brutally difficult to weave a ship through swarms of bullets.

In addition, with multiple players, the level keeps going as long as there is at least one player alive, and dead players respawn after some time (or when a teammate picks up a revive item). There are only two precious continues for when all players are taken out, so all players will inevitably face moments where the fate of the team rests on their ability to survive for an intense 5 seconds. It's crazy and stressful, but there is no real downside to failing (your teammates can't really get mad at you for dying when they died first) and the rush from successfully surviving is like none other.
Unfortunately, Jamestown doesn't support online play, but it has probably the best local support for any game I've ever played. The game very easily recognizes separate input devices, and I was pleasantly surprised when I found I could play on my laptop's keyboard, and a friend could use my wireless keyboard with absolutely no interference between the two keyboards. The initial levels are easy enough for anybody to jump in, and they will absolutely develop skills by the time it reaches the later more difficult levels. The game is ridiculously hard though, and the last level is especially difficult and unfortunately somewhat poorly designed. The final level is dark, a lot of walls are hard to see, and those that don't just block your way move to try and crush you. After hours of trying we were still unable to beat that last level, though we did manage to make it to the boss once or twice.

That's all I have to say about Jamestown. It's $10 on Steam, and definitely well worth the price if you've got the friends (and extra input devices) to have four players at once. Give it a shot, just be ready to die a lot!

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