As terrible as I am at “bullet hell”-style games, I very much enjoyed my playthrough of “Jamestown”. Also – as one would hope and expect – I did get much better as I sunk more time into the game. I think what really pushed my skill level up quickly, though, was taking the time out to complete all available bonus challenge missions that are unlockable from the store (and no – you don’t spend real money on stuff in this game).
Jumping back into the plot (and skipping the first two stages, since I played through those in the episode), Walter Raleigh, John Smith, and Virginia Dare head to the Badlands to rescue Virginia’s father, Joachim, who is being held in a Spanish automated future-prison. At this point you have access to all four ship types – Beam, Gunner, Charge, and Bomber. I really didn’t wind up going back to Beam at any point in the story missions or challenge levels, and the Bomber ship (which fires bombs forwards, allowing you to detonate any shots on screen with the alternate fire, dealing bonus damage in a small area of effect around the shots) just didn’t seem all that effective to me. The two ships that I primarily used were the Gunner (able to aim a large beam in any direction while still firing shots forward as well) and the Charge.
The Charge fires a relatively weak barrage straight forwards, but after a few seconds the ship forms a large ball of energy that can be released with the alternate fire button. This ball then moves slowly forwards through any enemies and obstacles (nifty!) in its path, dealing a giant burst of damage as it does. I primarily used this ship throughout the rest of the missions and in many of the challenges because the alternate fire mechanic allows you to set the charged shot off down its track to destruction while the ship continues to dodge and fire as normal, thereby letting you deliver spectacular laser-death in two areas of the screen at once.
Once you have all four ships, the game then forces you to play the fourth stage on the “Novice” difficulty setting (no “Beginner” hand-holding here). This means that if you hadn’t beaten the first three stages on “Novice” already, you had to double back to complete them again on the harder difficulty. Not a huge setback since the campaign is only five stages long, but at the time I found it frustrating because I still wasn’t that good at the game. I just wanted to get the story and see all the vignettes, dammit! I ain’t here to hone my skills!
And then, once you beat the fourth stage, you can’t advance to the final mission unless you double back again (“triple back”?) and beat all of the previous stages on “Legendary”. Once you do that, you can attempt to beat the final stage, but the easiest mode available is – you guessed it – “Legendary”! So the last stage really ramps up the difficulty like a son of a bitch because it forces you to play it on a higher level, and the stage is longer, AND the final showdown with the Conquistador is in two phases! I think I threw so many colonial clones on flying death machines into the grinder that the game just didn’t know how to handle all of the cogs and corpses, so it just let me win. I mean, I suppose I got better at dodging and timing my attacks, and got better at surviving the path through the temple so that I’d have more lives available for the boss battle, but there was an incredible amount of luck in there, too. I can’t accept the victory all to myself – couldn’t have done it without Mr. Horseshoe, Ms. Rabbit Foot, and a whole family of Four-Leaf Clovers. It is as much my triumph as it is theirs.
As you push your way through the game, you earn money that you can use to unlock more pieces of the game, like different modes and bonus stage packs. These stages have some common goals that get used multiple times, such as:
- surviving for a certain period of time, either while being attacked by a ludicrous number of enemies or while navigating through a maze of turrets
- reaching a certain score within a given length of time (these missions usually have a gimmick that you have to employ in order to succeed, such as killing enemies at a certain point in their animation or destroying pieces of an enemy in a certain order to score bonus points)
- flying through a course and collecting all of the rings while staying alive
And then there’s The Luge.
The mother-f*****g Luge!
As of this writing, I’ve beaten all of the campaign missions on at least “Legendary” difficulty, and I’ve beaten all of the bonus stages. The only things I haven’t done are beat the game on all of the difficulties (including the unlockable “Judgment Day” that requires you to first beat the game on “Divine”, so f**k that) and attempt The Gauntlet (which is just going through the entire campaign with only two continues – no thanks). In doing so, I’ve logged a little over ten hours into Jamestown.
The Luge probably soaked up about four of those ten hours.
Seriously – this stage is rabies-infected Captain Sillypants on a Redbull-and-cocain binge.
You have to mosey your way through about 90 seconds (which is a long-ass time in this game) of turrets and bombs and thick clouds of enemies that not only fire at you but also chase you down and crash into you. Once you get past ALL THAT, you face the bosses.
That’s right – bosses. Plural. The boss from the third stage. That one. Two of those. Simultaneously. As in “at the same damn time”.
Now, to be fair, the game gives you a little bit of leniency at the end of the stage – you are only required to defeat one of the bosses in order to clear the challenge. Not both.
That’s like forcing someone to walk over a bed of hot coals, but to ease their troubles you let them wear panty hoes.
I drilled my pioneering skull so far into this stage that it made me ragequit. After a particularly displeasing set of runs I just walked away from this game for months. I came back to it only yesterday and once again began hammering away at the uncrackable Luge. And about an hour after picking the game back up… I did it. I f*****g beat it!
Following that “Success” screen was the most animated silent celebration I think I’ve ever had over a video game. I went tearing into the living room and just jumped and waved my arms and laughed quietly to myself. I was overjoyed! The reign of terror is over! Bring out the Ewoks, the dancing lobsters, and the baby Yoshis – it’s time to paaaartaaaaay!
Quietly. It’s 1am. The wife’s asleep and has a business trip tomorrow. But still, “woohoo” all the same.
This achievement allowed me to unlock the final block of bonus stages, which I beat in under an hour. Seriously, this horrible thorn of a level was the most difficult thing I faced in the whole game, at it was part of only the second block of challenges. But it’s over now. I am complete.
The last remaining thing to talk about is a goofy little alternate playthrough called “Farce”, which changes the between-mission narrative screens into juvenile jokes and an elementary writing style. The exposition reads like a first-grader trying to give a history lesson, or like a very poorly written research paper that was submitted just for the completion grade. It’s well worth the second playthrough just to unravel the adventures of “Wally Raleigh” and his best friends as they try to stop the bad Spanish man from making people cry.
This game was a whole mess of fun! The artwork is very eye-catching, the music and sound design are fantastic, the gameplay is entertaining and made me want to complete all of the challenge levels – and it did pose quite a challenge to me. There were many instances where I barely squeaked out of a salvo of gunfire due to pixel-perfect maneuvering (and let’s not forget good fortune), leaving me asking myself out loud, “How did I survive that?!” And, like many games that are difficult yet enjoyable, the feeling of finally conquering a task that you’ve been attempting over and over and over again is simply astounding – a marvelous mixture of jubilation and satisfaction that makes those countless failures worth the trouble.