If ever there was a game with a premise I wanted to steal and turn into an absolute guarantee for me winning a Nebula Award, it’s Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony.

Jamestown is a shmup created by Final Form Games that fires on every cylinder you could possibly want a shmup to fire on. It is almost patently unbelievable that this is the very first game released by Final Form, as its level of polish is higher than an entire bucket of zrazy. It all starts with the games unique setting. Jamestown tells the story of Sir. Walter Raleigh’s quest to defend the titular settlement from the Spanish, discover the secret of the lost colony of Roanoke, and clear his name after escaping from a stint in the Tower of London. Also he escapes using a spaceship. Also the Spanish have teamed up with aliens to defeat the British. Also this is all on Mars.

Seriously, I know I have a reputation as a flaming liberal, but I am putting myself on record right now and saying I would fully support the Palin or Bachmann Idiocracy awareness tours campaigns if, the next time they decide to just entirely make up something historical because of their tenuous grasp on American history, they just go balls to the wall and say Sir. Walter Raleigh was a freedom fighter who liberated Jamestown from the Spain-Martian armada. That’s way more awesome than saying Paul Revere warned the British in order to protect their gun rights, or that John Quincy Adams was a founding father who fought against slavery when he was 8 years old.

So, to recap, the only things I’ve told you so far are that Jamestown is a shmup, it involves Walter Raleigh shooting aliens on the New New World, and that home-schooling apparently doesn’t work very well for conservatives. Are you buying this game already? Do I even need to talk about it anymore? If you are the type of person who actually enjoys my reviews, I can almost guarantee you are frantically Googling this in order to give them your money. For those of you that actually want to know whether or not the game is good beyond its ridiculously awesome premise, guess what? It totally is.

While the main campaign will only take two hours or so to beat on the normal difficulty, the real meat of Jamestown comes from the higher difficulty settings. It’s almost like Final Form Games’ couldn’t decide if they wanted to make a straight forward shoot-em-up or if they wanted to make a heavily Cave inspired bullet hell game, so they just made both. You may not notice many of the game’s bullet hell qualities on the lower settings, but by the time you ramp it up to Legendary, you are going to be in for some hell on mars. Bullet hell on mars. Which I guess is a lot more interesting than the Biker Mice from Mars they had to displace in order to push their colonial bullet-hell agenda.

Beyond the main campaign and its varied difficulty, you can unlock other game modes by spending points you’ve collected in Jamestown’s “Ye Olde Shoppe.” This expands the game quite a bit by offering you a gauntlet mode, in which you have only a handful of lives to defeat the entire game in a single sitting, or challenge packs that offer you increasingly difficult goal-oriented tasks such as gaining a high score in a small amount of time or surviving an onslaught of pumped up bad guys. The most interesting thing though is the games “Farce Mode.” This is an alternate telling of the story in an entirely tongue in cheek and self aware way. Sort of like if Chrono Trigger’s New Game+ spent most of its time making fun of Frog’s dialog.

Despite some rather more classically frustrating challenge modes, Jamestown never becomes impossible like many of its peers in the genre, but it isn’t an easy game by any stretch of the imagination. It’s not Touhou, but it’s not Color a Dinosaur either. Playing with a competent friend in the game’s co-op mode can help get you through the hairy parts, but only if you have a real life friend or two who are competent at shoot-em-ups. Finding help on the great wasteland of the internet is impossible as Jamestown doesn’t offer an online multiplayer option. You are limited to having to actually look at the person you are playing with. The amount that this detracts from the game really depends on how ugly your friends are.

What isn’t ugly is Jamestown’s aesthetic value. Hah, how was that for a segue? Final Form deserves some real attention for how nice this game looks and sounds. Whether it’s the fantastically drawn backgrounds, the vivid and colorful sprites, or the surprisingly great classical soundtrack, this is an aesthetic smorgasbord. If you are a huge fan of the 2D/16bit resurgence in game design, you won’t be disappointed in this at all.

Look, this is just a game you have to get. There are so many good things about it that even I, a master of the writing art, can’t think of ways to work some of them into this review. It’s ten bucks, it’s the first game released by an independent developer that you should be throwing your money at to support, it’s got aliens, and it’s just generally amazing. If you are one of those lanyard toting casuals we keep hearing so much about maybe you would be turned off by the games lack of online multiplayer or short campaign length on normal, but if you are a real human being and want to be challenged by a unique and beautiful game, go buy this right now.

Here’s The Rundown:

+ Pretty much everything.

+ Once again proving that Philadelphia is better than anywhere else.

- No online multiplayer, you have to look at and talk to real people in order to play co-op.

- It doesn’t get me drunk.

- Seriously, I can’t think of anything else. Why are you still reading this? Go buy the damned thing.

Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony was developed by and published by Final Form Games. It was released on June 8th, 2011 for the PC and is available through Steam, D2D, and Gamersgate for $9.99, although if they asked for my soul I probably would have paid that. It was played until completion (except for a few of those fucking challenges) on all difficulties which took about nine hours since, sometimes, I’m sort of bullet-helltarded and die a lot.