Jamestown+ Review: The Perfect Bullet Hell for the Switch
Final Form Games’ action-packed multiplayer bullet hell, Jamestown+, sees players journeying through linear stages, dodging bullets and destroying enemies either alone or with up to four friends. It offers a variety of stages to choose from and a variety of different ships to unlock — each with varying degrees of difficulty attached — and it all comes together to create a fantastic experience, no matter how many players are involved.
Jamestown+ is a very simple game. Once you’ve chosen your ship and jumped into the stage, you can move the ship around and fire one of two types of ammunition that vary depending on which ship you’ve chosen. After collecting enough gold by defeating enemies, you can also activate the special “Vaunt Mode,” which gives your ship a temporary shield, increased firepower and a score multiplier. That Vaunt Mode is extremely important in beating some of the more challenging stages, and so it’s important to know when to use it and when to hold off; aside from that, there isn’t much else to think about aside from dodging enemy fire.
This simplicity could be seen as a negative, but it makes Jamestown+ a very easy game for almost anyone to pick up and enjoy. It also alleviates the issues with the game’s tutorial, which Final Form Games used to simply show what happens when you press each button rather than to help prepare players for the challenges they’re about to face. The lacklustre tutorial initially made the game rather confusing, especially when it came to using Vaunt Mode, but it only took me a couple of stages before I felt more than comfortable with Jamestown+’s controls and mechanics.
Fortunately, despite its simplicity, Jamestown+ delivers on the challenges. The game seems somewhat bare at first glance, with little to do beyond the first few stages, but you’ll quickly unlock a number of additional modes and challenges that add a whole lot of replayability. Each stage has multiple difficulty settings, and the art of mastering the simple mechanics in order to complete the more challenging stages is where the game absolutely shines.
Following on from that, Jamestown+’s multiplayer offering ranges from extremely exciting to a confusing mess. It’s difficult enough to keep track of one player given the number of bullets, enemies and explosions on the screen at any given time, so having to keep track of multiple people at once — even though you only really need to focus on yourself — is chaotic. Given the genre, though, that’s not necessarily a bad thing: you can’t really call it a bullet hell if it’s easy. The chaos is incredibly fun, and the multiplayer mode is helped by the fact that each player only needs a single Joy-Con; it’s very quick and very easy to set up games with your friends, and that’s what the Switch is all about.
The game is also gorgeously detailed, with smoothly animated sprites and absolutely beautiful backgrounds to play on. Jamestown+ is undeniably a fantastic looking game, but that level of detail does occasionally come at a cost: some enemies tend to blend into the background, which makes it hard to differentiate between what is simply some added detail and what can start shooting at you at a moment’s notice. This is particularly bad in certain stages where players can actually interact with the background elements; it adds an extra layer to the visual chaos, making the screen feel more cluttered and visually confusing than it should, even in a bullet hell. The bullets themselves pop out with their bright colours, which is a plus, but the enemies who shoot those bullets can be too easy to miss.
Overall, Jamestown+ is a worthy addition to any Switch owner’s library, and just a great bullet hell in general. It can be confusing at times, and takes some getting used to, but with plenty of ships to unlock, difficulties to master and challenges to conquer, Jamestown+ provides an excellent experience whether you’re playing alone, with friends, at home, or on the go.
Jamestown+’s fantastic art style, simple yet frenetic gameplay, and hours upon hours of replayability make it a fantastic game whether playing solo or with friends. Its simplicity means even players completely new to bullet hell style games can jump right in without sacrificing the challenge more hardcore players will want.
Zack reviewed Jamestown+ using a Nintendo Switch code provided by Final Form Games.