JAMESTOWN / Final Form Games / PC
Newcomer Final Form Games almost hits it right out of the park with their very first title, delivering what would be one of the most enjoyable shooters ever made were it not for very short length, an unexpectedly crummy final level, and an ill-advised DLC ploy. As it is, though, it's still quite fun and impressive, and worth a few bucks when it goes on sale on the digital download services or gets tossed into another indie bundle.
Jamestown is a mishmosh of arcade-style space shooter gameplay with the setting of an alternate-history 1600s where everyone has spacecraft technology somehow and the Spanish have allied themselves with evil tentacle aliens from Mars. Obviously the game is not taking itself too seriously, but the comedy and enjoyability comes in that it actually plays this premise completely straight rather than beating you over the head with Parodius-style "look how zany this is!" type shenanigans. Having exceptional colorful pixel art combined with an excellent Star Fox-esque symphonic score also helps a lot on this count.
Technically a "bullet hell" shooter (at least in places), Jamestown avoids the usual masochist/OCD niche appeal of the subgenre by easing up just
the right amount to make it accessible to everyone, and also offering multiple levels of difficulty. Screen-filling spreads are more of an occasional event rather than a constant, and your ship has a fairly tiny hit box (basically, just the guy riding on the back of it.)
The first four levels of the game are fun and satisfying. Unfortunately, there's only five. The fifth one breaks from the established open-space/bullet-storm/reflex-based design to some garbagey series of being trapped in narrow corridors with a bunch of dark walls that tend to blend into the background. It's a jarring change from the rest of the game and the difficulty is just a little too
amped up here (unlike the other levels, you can only play the final level at one of the top three difficulty settings.) Even if you do fanagle your way through it, though, the game is over then anyway. All there is left to do is replay the previous levels (which are maybe 5 minutes or so each in length), or do a handful of "bonus challenges", which are really more annoying than fun.
Ah, but as it happens ... there's paid DLC. At the moment there's a pack called "Gunpowder, Treason and Plot" for $3 which adds four new ship types. I haven't played it, but going by Youtube vids and forum posts, these things are pretty overpowered. So I don't know if the relatively shit design of the final level was intentional to funnel you into buying the extra ships pack. I probably shouldn't be complaining about price since I named my own for this with the Humble Bundle anyway, but if I paid regular price to find out I can't really finish the game without paying $3 more, I'd be pretty cheesed off. The rest of the game is a high-class production so I'll give Final Form the benefit of the doubt here, but DLC in general just rubs me the wrong way, particularly in a game that is this low on content to begin with.
Ah well. Humble Bundles tend to give you access to the previous bundles (with Steam Keys) if you donate north of $10 or so, so this might be another good reason to grab a future bundle and check this out without losing too many ducats. It also has nice native 360 pad support, and there's co-op for up to 4 players simultaneously, though I think that's local only, not online. The designers really get what makes arcadey shooters appealing, and even though it's only really four good levels, it's worth a reasonable price of admission.