Centuries have passed since the original 13 colonies were founded in colonial America. Who can forget the story of John Smith, as he defended our colonies from the Spanish, and the Martians? Brave, space captain John Smith, may we never forget the fleet of galactic battle ships that won us our freedom so many centuries ago. No, you aren’t crazy, this isn’t revisionist history, this is our Jamestown+ Switch Review.
Final Form Games, the developer of Jamestown+, created something very special when they came up with the idea for a space shoot’em up that revolves around the colonization of the Unites States. While some places and names share similarities with the historical colonization, obviously much has been changed, such as the inclusion of aliens, space-faring, and technology that is far advanced from what we have today, much less what was available in the 16th century. The peculiar premise is definitely something different, and lends a strange but firm backbone to the illusorily tricky combat.
SHMUPS are usually one note in practice. Generally, you start with a singular character or active attack, and you pick items up as you progress to change how you battle your enemies. In Jamestown+, you actually have a wide variety of ships, some of which require you to complete certain levels and difficulties in order to unlock them. In addition to unlocking ships, you’ll also be able to unlock different attacks, so you can build a kit that works best for you, or for the particular level you are about to challenge. In fact, building your ship or utilizing one specific to your level is fundamental to completing them effectively.
In the main story mode, there are some enemies and bosses that I found exceptionally tough to beat when I utilized simplistic, yet powerful, frontal assaults. Battling bosses in general really opened up for me when I started using the Treason ship, also named Treason, which allowed me to fire homing missiles from anywhere on the screen after a short charge time. It became my go-to ship for most story missions and some challenges, but there were still instances that other ships and attack combinations were better suited for certain stages.
In addition to the wide variety of ships, there are a plethora of gaming modes to play. You have the story mode, which isn’t terribly lengthy, but in addition to making your way through each level, you have 5 difficulties, ranging from normal, all the way to “judgment”. Some levels need to be beaten on a certain difficulty to progress to the next level, and honestly, it’s hard to really tell the difference between a Hard difficulty and a Legendary difficulty mission, so even on the tougher stages, it should be doable for players of all SHMUP competencies.
Other modes can be unlocked in the shop along with ships and attacks. The Gauntlet is one such mode that you’ll be able to unlock pretty early on, which pits you against back to back missions for increased rewards. The gold you earn will be used to unlock more modes, more challenges, and more ships as you progress. The gameplay itself is actually fairly exciting. There are some levels that inundate players with so many enemies that it’s hard to keep track of every laser, ever block and position of everything coming at you at once, that sometimes it’s simply luck that gets you through some tough spots. Not everything has to rely on luck though, as earning coins and utilizing your vaunt mode will enable a short term force field and increased firepower, both of which are necessary if you wish to survive and not use any of your lives or continues.
For those that want to take on these missions with a friend, you can actually bring in up to 3 other players, and have them aid you to keep your colonies safe. Unfortunately, the multiplayer is not a true online experience, but local and remote play multiplayer is possible. For those that aren’t interested in multiplayer but still want to show off your star fighting prowess, leaderboards are available so you can submit your information and see how you stack up with the rest of the community.
Jamestown+ works exceptionally well on the Switch. The controls feel good and you’re able to remap them as necessary. I found that even when utilizing a single joy-con to play in multiplayer with someone else, it was still relatively easy to navigate and use your attacks by mapping buttons to whatever positions felt the most comfortable. Generally, I would utilize the triggers for firing my weapons, but my companions didn’t always feel the same way.
With so much to do and earn, Jamestown+ was a surprisingly fantastic Space Combat shoot’em up. While some of the challenges could be explained a little better, and some levels could use a slight difficulty adjustment, seeing as how the normal difficulty disappears entirely within a few story levels, what you are left with is still an exciting and enjoyable take on a space-colonial-american story.